The Estate

When a person dies somebody has to sort out his or her Estate

How do you sort out the Estate of the deceased?

When a person dies somebody has to sort out his or her Estate. Their Estate includes their money, property and the possessions they have left. If you are the person doing this you collect in all the money, pay any debts and share out the Estate to those people entitled to it.

You can pay a solicitor to sort out the Estate for you. You may already have a solicitor your family uses. If not, you will need to choose one. Ask friends for recommendations, and when you contact them ask about their charges.

How do you apply for probate?

To sort out someone’s Estate, you may need to apply for a 'grant of representation', also known as 'probate'. You can complete the Probate application form (PA1) yourself, or use a solicitor. You will receive a ‘grant of probate’ if the person left a Will, or ‘letters of administration’ if there is no Will. Your local Probate Registry will send you the forms you need with notes and guidance on what you have to do. Contact the Inheritance Tax and Probate helpline 0300 123 1072 for help filling in the form, understanding Inheritance Tax responsibilities, or getting paper copies of forms.

What does a grant of probate or letter of administration allow you to do?

A grant of probate or letters of administration are legal documents which allow the person(s) named to collect and distribute the Estate of the deceased. You can show it to organisations that hold these assets, such as banks or building societies.

Is a grant of probate needed in all cases?

Not always.

Probate is not usually needed to release assets held jointly with another person, for example where:

  • A home is held in joint names and is passing by survivorship to the other joint owner; or
  • A joint bank or building society account is held. In these cases production of a Death Certificate may be enough for the monies to be transferred to the joint holder.

Sometimes, certain institutions, for example, banks or building societies, may release money without a grant being produced if the amount held by the deceased was small. You'll need to check this with them.

Staff at Probate Registries will offer procedural guidance on how to obtain a grant but cannot provide legal advice.

What do you do if there is no Will?

If someone dies without making a Will, they are said to have died ‘intestate’. If this happens the law sets out who should deal with the deceased’s affairs and who should inherit their ‘Estate’. Assets held in joint names usually pass automatically to the other joint owner.

Dealing with an Estate when there is no Will can be complicated and take a long time in very complex cases.