Guide: Probate

Wait, what’s a grant of probate?

A grant of probate is a legal document that the executor of a will can use as proof of their right to manage the legal and financial affairs of a person who has died.


Banks and other financial organisations often ask to see a sealed copy of a grant of probate before they’ll let an executor access any accounts. This is especially true for accounts with lots of funds, although the threshold is different for every organisation.


When someone dies without a will, the person sorting out their estate will need to apply for letters of administration instead.

How many copies of the grant of probate do you need?

It’s a really good idea to have three to six sealed copies of the grant of probate if you’re settling the estate. That way, you can send copies to a few different organisations at once and still have one at home for safe keeping.


Who can apply for probate?

If there is a will, the person named as the executor of the estate should be the one to apply for a grant of probate.


If no will exists, a close adult relative can apply for a letter of administration, which will grant them the same rights as a grant of probate would. The applicant is known as the administrator of the estate, rather than the executor.


Probate is time- and labour-intensive, so some people ask a professional to apply for probate and settle the estate on their behalf. 

How long do you have to apply for probate?

You’ll likely need to apply for probate within six months of the death of the person whose estate you’re dealing with.


Why? There’s no time limit when you can apply for probate after someone has died. But there is a six month time limit on starting to pay HMRC any inheritance tax (IHT).


Since you need to report the value of the estate to HMRC before applying for probate, and a grant of probate is sometimes needed to access bank accounts and pay IHT, most people tend to deal with these two processes together.


Preparing to apply for probate

  • Before applying for a grant of probate, you’ll need to report the value of the estate to HMRC. This applies whether or not inheritance tax is due. You’ll need to take into account:


  • The total value of any funds, property and belongings. To do this, you’ll need to reach out to the bank, pension providers and any other financial institutions holding assets. You’ll also need to get any property valued by an estate agent.


  • Any debts. Contact utility companies, loan companies, and mortgage and credit card providers to see how much (if anything) the person who has died owed to others.
  • Gifts. If the person who died gave gifts beyond the official allowance in the seven years before their death (don’t worry – birthday and Christmas gifts usually don’t count) these may be subject to IHT. Find out more about gifts and inheritance tax here.


  • You’ll need official copies of the death certificate and the will (if there is one) to get this information from various organisations. Once you have it, you’ll be able to establish whether any inheritance tax needs to be paid. You’ll also know whether a grant of probate or letter of administration is necessary.



Probate vs. full estate administration – what’s the difference?


When shopping around for probate, you may hear probate solicitors using the term ‘estate administration’. But before choosing a professional probate provider, it’s important to understand exactly what each of these terms mean.



Probate (short for ‘grant of probate’) is a document issued by HM Courts Service. It proves that certain people have the authority to deal with the assets of someone who died – such as the executor or administrator of the estate.


To obtain a grant of probate, you first need to fill out a series of forms and submit them to the probate registry. If you aren’t used to all the legal jargon, it can be easy to make mistakes when applying for probate yourself. Instead, many people choose to use a professional service to help them get probate. You may see these referred to as ‘grant-only’ services.


Full estate administration;

Full estate administration is everything that needs to be done to sort out someone’s affairs — not just the grant of probate. It could mean calling up banks, filling out their forms, dealing with the family, paying debts, closing accounts, sorting out pensions, selling shares, collecting in funds, clearing the house, selling the house, paying everything out to the beneficiaries, and so on.


This juggling act can be challenging for some people, particularly after dealing with a bereavement. But the main issue is that it’s very time-consuming. From start to finish, the whole estate administration process takes around 9-12 months, which can be particularly difficult to do yourself if you’re also working full time.


Which service is right for me?


When you compare probate services and get quotes from probate solicitors, there’s a good chance that some of the quotes you receive will actually be for full estate administration. Solicitors often try to upsell their clients to full estate administration because it’s a more expensive option; however, that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t the right option for you.


Here are the three main things to consider when choosing between a grant-only probate service and full estate administration:



If the estate is made up of a bank account and there’s no property to transfer or sell, you can probably deal with the estate administration. But if there are bank accounts, pensions, life insurance policies and properties to sort out, it’s likely to be a much more complicated process.



It’s important to think about how much time you’ll realistically be able to spend dealing with paperwork and estate administration. If you’re working and have children to look after, it’s going to be very difficult to find any spare time to sort out the estate. 



Grant-only probate services usually range from £500 to £2,000, while full estate administration services can be anywhere from £1,200 to £25,000. 

Settling an estate can be exhausting…

And getting a copy of the grant of probate is the least of it. With all kinds of other tasks, big and small, it can be a lot to take on by yourself.


We offer a fixed fee estate administration service that’s tailored to your needs. If you just need help getting a grant of probate, we can do that. If you want someone to handle everything, we can do that too.To find out more, click here.


The executors of your will have a very serious task ahead of them. Settling an estate takes a great deal of organisation and expertise – not to mention tact. It can also be very stressful for grieving friends or family members. For this reason, many people choose to use a professional executor.


So, why choose Will Help and not another solicitor? And what benefits come from using a professional in the first place? Let’s take a look.

What does an executor do?

The executors of your will have the authority to settle your legal and financial affairs after you die. It will be their job to carry out the wishes in your will, transferring your property, money, assets and belongings to the people you’ve chosen.


Even if your estate is very simple, this can be a complicated task. Even small estates can take months of work.


Some examples of tasks your executors might need to do are:

  • Gathering together all your financial paperwork to understand the size of your estate
  • Contacting all the different organisations and businesses holding your funds and assets
  • Calculating the total worth of your estate, considering any debts or tax owed
  • Applying for a grant of probate, a legal document that can help them access your accounts
  • Arranging for insurance on any property left empty
  • Transferring deeds or selling your property for a good price
  • Paying all your debts, income tax and inheritance tax, filling out all the paperwork
  • Closing all your accounts, redirecting post where needed
  • Setting up trusts for pets or underage beneficiaries
  • Communicating well and often with your beneficiaries to avoid conflict
  • Transferring all your funds and belongings to the right people in a timely manner

…among other things. You can find out more about the duties of an executor here.


Executors need to keep very detailed records of their work. Your main (‘residuary’) beneficiaries can ask to see these anytime. If it turns out that an executor has made a mistake, they will be financially liable.


Different ways solicitors charge for probate


Another thing to consider when you compare probate services is that solicitors charge for probate in different ways. This can make it difficult to calculate exactly how much you’ll have to pay, but you may be able to make an estimate based on the value of the estate.


Here are the three main ways solicitors charge for probate:


Fixed price

This is where your probate solicitor will quote you a fixed price upfront, including any additional costs for the probate registry fees or copies of probate. This is the safest option as it ensures there are no hidden costs to worry about later.


Percentage basis

This is where the probate solicitor charges a percentage (usually 2-4%) of the estate’s total value. Percentage-based pricing often sounds great on paper, but – for a simple estate worth £300,000 – you could easily end up paying between £6,000 and £12,000.


Hourly rate

Though this is gradually being phased out, some solicitors still charge their clients on an hourly rate, which can be anywhere from £150 to £300 an hour. This is often the riskiest choice, as it’s very difficult to know exactly how much you’ll need to pay upfront.


Why a professional executor might be right for your estate


The main reason people use a professional executor is to save their loved ones from this difficult task. With a professional, your family can relax and recoup, knowing that everything is begin taken care of.


Other reasons you might consider a professional are:


  • Protecting your family from being liable for any mistakes made when settling the estate
  • Getting the estate settled faster, so that your loved ones don’t have to worry about money
  • Preventing your family from paying more inheritance tax than they need to
  • Wanting an executor with the experience to deal with complicated wishes
  • Preventing conflict between beneficiaries and executors
  • Wanting an unbiased person who will settle the estate fairly
  • You can have up to four executors for your will. So, if you like, you can choose a friend or family member to act alongside a professional executor. This gives your loved ones the opportunity to remove the professional if they decide that they’d rather not pay any fees. Most professional executors – including Will Help – will withdraw if asked to.




What makes Will Help the right choice?

  • We’re experienced. We’ve helped thousands of families just like yours. No matter how big and complicated your estate is, we use qualified solicitors so you can trust us to make sure your wishes – and your loved ones – will be taken care of.


  • Affordable. We’ll give your family a fixed-fee quote up-front, and we’ll stick to it. We will base our fee on what your family needs help with, not on how much your estate is worth. This means we can be substantially cheaper than solicitors who take a percentage or an hourly rate.


  • Fast. We work hard to release funds as we collect them, so that estates are settled quickly and efficiently.


  • Flexible. Some families like to have a professional handle every part of settling an estate. Others just need a hand with the initial tax and probate documents. We offer a flexible service that’s tailored to the help that your family needs.


  • Responsible. Our complete estate administration service includes taking on total liability, protecting your family.


  • Open. We give every family a personal representative to take care of them and keep them up-to-date. And with our complete estate administration service.