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What is probate?

Find out what probate is and get a basic overview of the process.

What is probate?

Probate is the process of dealing with someone’s estate after they’ve died. It involves gathering in all of the person’s assets – their finances, property, and belongings – as well as settling debts and paying any taxes due, then distributing what’s left over as directed in the will.

If the person who died didn’t make a will, the rules of intestacy will determine who gets what.

Need help with probate?

Which? Legal Probate can help you through the probate process with comprehensive advice and one-to-one, expert help from our team of trained probate specialists.

Find out how Which? Legal Probate works

Who handles probate?

Probate is usually carried out by individuals who have been appointed in the will, known as executors. They’ll need to obtain a court order known as a grant of probate to begin dealing with the estate.

If a will hasn’t been made or can’t be found, the person’s next of kin will usually apply to the Probate Registry for a court order called ‘letters of administration’. This gives them the power to act as an administrator and to perform the same duties as a named executor.

Some executors choose to carry out probate themselves (see our guide to DIY probate), while others will pay a solicitor to carry it out on their behalf. DIY probate is typically much cheaper, but is not always practical depending on the size and complexity of the estate.

Is probate always necessary?

Usually, until a grant of probate or letters of administration have been obtained, none of the person’s property can be given away, sold or disposed of in another way. However, if the total value of the estate is less than £15,000, it may not be needed.

If you’re not sure whether probate is necessary, you should seek advice from HMRC or a legal adviser.

Customer feedback

  • Probate is a complex subject & I wish to ensure I provide accurate information. It's reassuring to know help is on hand

    Simon Beagle

  • Sally was extremely helpful and knowledgeable. I was very impressed a booked call time with a probate specialist could be arranged so quickly. I am looking forward to my conversation with the Probate expert on Friday.

    Which? Legal Probate Customer

  • Excellent service and support helping to give the understanding and confidence to carry out probate themselves

    Which? Legal Probate Customer

  • Sarah is knowledgeable and her advice practical. Great to have the support to provide the confidence to do Probate yourself

    Which? Legal Probate Customer