Most estates do need to go through probate: It’s not a question of whether the deceased left a Will, but whether or not the assets dealt with by the Will are the sort of assets that require a Grant of Probate before they can be dealt with under the terms of the Will.
The purpose of a Will is to carry out the deceased’s wishes as to what will happen to their estate after death.
The Grant of Probate is a document that allows ownership of the assets to be transferred from the deceased to the executors, so that they can give effect to the terms of the will.
Whether a Grant of Probate is required will depend on the assets of the deceased:
Did the deceased own assets in their name at the date of their death?
If so, depending on the value and type of assets, you will need a Grant of Probate.
A bank account is a good example. If the deceased held, for example, £50,000 in a bank or building society account, the bank/building society will need to be provided with a Grant of Probate before it will release money to the executors to deal with under the terms of the Will.
But if the deceased left a few bank and/or building society accounts, say with only a few thousand pounds in each, along with some personal possessions but nothing else, it is unlikely that the banks/building societies will need to see a Grant of Probate for modest amounts.
Each bank and building society has its own limit but, generally, most institutions will let the amount of around £15,000 be given to executors without seeing a Grant of Probate.
Did the deceased own stocks and shares?
If so, the registrar will need to be provided with a Grant of Probate before they will transfer the shares out of the deceased’s name into the names of the executors or beneficiaries.
But the registrar may not need to see a Grant of Probate if the deceased held just a few shares of a modest total value.
Did the deceased own their home in their own name?
If so, you will need a Grant of Probate before it can be sold or transferred to a beneficiary.
If the deceased’s home was owned as joint tenants with a surviving spouse (or other party), it will pass to them by survivorship.
What happens where there isn’t a Will?
The basic rules of probate are the same, but the people who administer the estate are known as ‘administrators’ (instead of ‘executors’).