Find out how to apply for a grant of probate, what fees you’ll pay and the forms you’ll need to fill in.
If you’ve been named as an executor in someone’s will, you may need to apply for a grant of probate before you can begin dealing with their estate. If there’s no will and you’re an administrator, it’s an order called ‘letters of administration’ that you’ll need.
A grant of probate may not be required if the estate is very small or everything will transfer automatically to a spouse or civil partner. However, if you do need to apply for a grant of probate, there are a number of key steps to follow.
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You’ll need to assess the value of the person’s estate and any liabilities by going through their papers.
This process can range from a simple tally of bank and building society accounts to something far more complicated, with numerous investments, properties and personal effects to take into account.
To complete the valuation, you’ll need to send a certified copy of the death certificate to each institution that holds the person’s assets and ask them to submit a final statement.
If the estate includes property, this also needs to be valued. You can do this yourself, by comparing the property with others nearby, but a written valuation by an estate agent or surveyor is usually a better idea, especially if inheritance tax is an issue.
Once you’ve assessed the size of the estate, you’ll need to complete a probate application form, called a PA1. This is included in the Which? Legal Probate pack.
In Scotland you apply for confirmation by sending forms C1 and C5 to the Sheriff Court
You also need to submit a form to HMRC to work out whether any inheritance tax (IHT) needs to be paid. There are two alternative forms to complete (these are used in Scotland, too):
IHT 205 if the estate is below the IHT threshold (currently £325,000) - this form is included in the Which? Legal pack
IHT 400 if the estate is above the IHT threshold
Whichever form you submit, it should include the value of the estate as well as details of any cash gifts made by the deceased in the seven years prior to their death. These need to be accounted for as they can affect the IHT liability of the estate.
Once the forms are completed, you should send them together with the original will and death certificate to the Probate Registry.
As well as supplying the right paperwork, you need to swear an executor’s oath to say that the details you’ve provided are correct. You can do this at your nearest Probate Registry or a local solicitor’s office, for a small fee.
The application fee for a grant of probate is currently £215, regardless of the size of the estate.
Additional copies can be ordered for 50p each. Multiple copies are essential for the administration process – it's normal to order at least five, and you may want to order more if the state is complex.
If IHT is due, this has to be paid before a grant of probate can be issued. If there are sufficient funds in one of the deceased’s bank accounts, you may be able to organise a direct payment to HMRC. Most UK banks permit this on receipt of an IHT 423 form.
If the major asset of the estate is a property or shares, HMRC will accept IHT in instalments, and only require a tenth of the total in advance.