A Guide to Probate


If the worst should happen and a loved one passes away, you could find yourself having to apply for the legal right to deal with the estate – that is, any property, money and possessions. You may be able to apply for a grant of representation, known as Probate in England and Wales, called Confirmation in Scotland, and Grant of Probate in Northern Ireland.

In most cases this responsibility falls to the executors named in a Will.

The deceased should have told you where they’ve stored their Will, plus any details of:

A codicil – a legally binding document that the deceased might have written to make additions or changes to their original Will.

A letter of wishes – a document that the deceased might have written to explain certain things in their Will, or to state what kind of funeral they want. The letter of wishes is not legally binding.

Register the death

The death needs to be registered, and you’ll need several copies of the death certificate.

Tell the Bank and Insurance Companies

The deceased person’s bank and building societies need to be advised of the death so that their accounts can be frozen. Also any insurance companies that hold policies in the deceased’s name need to be advised so that any life insurances etc. can be paid out to the beneficiaries.

The Funeral

Before beginning the Probate process, there may be funeral expenses to pay. Most banks will agree to release money from the deceased’s bank account to cover these expenses, and most funeral directors are happy to wait for payment until probate has been granted.


What does dealing with an estate involve?

Dealing with an estate when there’s a Will means getting Probate and distributing the estate as instructed in the Will.

If you’re the Will’s executor, in most cases you’ll have to obtain a Grant of Probate, assess the size of the estate, and administer the estate in accordance with the Will. This means collecting the assets of the estate and distributing these as instructed by the Will.

Use a specialist or do it yourself?

There are some circumstances when it’s advisable to use a Probate specialist – most usually solicitors or accountants – but it’s also perfectly normal to undertake the job of executor and get Probate yourself. This can save money in the estate, as a specialist can charge anything from 1% to 5% of the value of the estate, plus VAT and fees.

You might want to think about using a Probate specialist if:

  • The estate is complicated due to Inheritance Tax or assets which are held in Trust.
  • It is likely that the Will would be contested by a disgruntled relative.
  • The estate is bankrupt.
  • The estate includes foreign property or foreign assets.

If you’re doing it yourself you can considerably reduce costs, but it can involve a lot of effort and you are legally responsible for meeting all legitimate claims. However in most cases the process is the same.

  • There is a Will that names the executors.
  • Apply for Probate which gives you the legal right to deal with the deceased’s personal details/assets.
  • Collect the estate’s assets.
  • Pay any Tax that is due.
  • Pay any unpaid debts.
  • Distribute the balance of the estate to the beneficiaries as laid out in the will.


If you need help with Probate you can talk to one of our friendly advisors on 0330 606 2507 Mon – Thu 9:00am – 6:00pm, Fri 9:00am – 5:30. Calls charged at local rate and use any inclusive mobile or landline call allowance.

Alex Corlett

Alex is the "Friend's" Features Editor, working with the talented Features Team to bring you everything from cryptic crosswords to financial advice, knitting patterns to international travel and inspirational real life stories. Always on the hunt for a new feature idea, Alex also enjoys cycling and loves a good tea room.