What is probate?

'Probate' (or ‘confirmation’ in Scotland) is a term frequently used when someone talks about applying for the right to deal with the affairs of a person who has died.

Probate is sometimes called 'administering the estate' as after someone has died, their money, property and belongings need to be dealt with and administered to beneficiaries.

Probate is needed whether or not there is a Will and, due to the possibility of fraud, probate should start as soon as possible after the death.

To administer the estate, the people who are doing so (known as executors or administrators) may need to obtain a court order (known as a ‘grant of probate’ in England & Wales or a ‘confirmation’ in Scotland) to legally gain access to the assets of the estate so that they can carry out the wishes of the person who has died.

When a grant of probate is needed

A grant or confirmation may be required depending on the size of the deceased’s estate and the kinds of assets in it.

Normally, a grant or confirmation is needed where the value of the deceased’s estate (after paying the funeral account) exceeds £5,000.

These days, banks and building societies impose their own discretionary limit upon when they require sight of a grant or confirmation. They will often release small amounts of money on receipt of a Registrar's death certificate.

The grant or confirmation vests authority in the personal representatives to deal with the estate.

Find out more on when a ‘grant of probate is required.

How long does probate take?

Probate is a complex and time-consuming process. The length of probate depends on each individual case and the size of the deceased’s estate.

For an average estate, probate takes between six to nine months from start to completion and this period includes the forms being submitted to the Probate Registry, the grant of probate being issued and payments being made to the beneficiaries.

Should professional advice be sought in administering the estate?

Lawpack’s DIY Probate Kit can help you to do probate yourself, but there are some instances when professional advice should be sought, either from a bank, Trust Corporation (such as Kings Court Trust) or solicitor.

Some signs where advice should be sought include the following:

  1. The estate is insolvent.
  2. A beneficiary cannot be contacted.
  3. Someone intends to challenge the Will.
  4. There is some question of the Will’s validity, or the Will cannot be found.
  5. Someone stands to inherit a life interest in (or in Scotland a ‘liferent’ of) the estate.
  6. Beneficiaries include children under the age of 18 (in Scotland, 16) and a trust is set up for them.
  7. The deceased owned a business or was a partner in a business or owned agricultural property.
  8. The deceased was a Name (i.e. an investor) in Lloyd’s of London insurance market.
  9. A trust is set up under the Will.

Other information


External links


Published on: October 26, 2011

Did you like this article? Share it!

DIY Probate Kit

DIY probate category image
  • For probate in England & Wales
  • For confirmation in Scotland
  • Expert guidance manual 
  • Access to probate forms
  • Save probate fees

Read More

DIY Assist Service

DIY assist service advert
  • Simple, step-by-step online process
  • Expert guidance throughout
  • Receive completed probate and inheritance tax forms
  • Fixed price of only £295 inc VAT
Read More

Guidance on Next Steps after Death

Probate advice line advert
  • Expert guidance from probate & estate administration specialists
  • Signposting you in the right direction
  • Lines open from 9am - 7pm
  • Call freephone 0800 975 7877
Read More