When do you need to get probate?

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If a family member has died, you may need to get probate. When do you need to get probate and what do you need to do?

What is probate?

Probate is often referred to as the process of sorting out someone’s financial affairs after they’ve died. It will often include paying bills, paying inheritance tax and passing on money or gifts that have been left in someone’s will. In fact, in legal terms, probate has a specific definition: probate is granted or issued to the executor(s) named in the person’s will.

SAVVY TIP: In Scotland probate is called ‘confirmation’, while it’s called ‘grant of probate’ in Northern Ireland.

Probate or grant of representation?

The legal profession has its own language which can be complex and off-putting. As part of the probate process, you have to apply for what’s called a ‘grant of representation’ to access the deceased person’s bank account etc,.

SAVVY TIP: Grant of representation is also sometimes called grant of probate or letters of administration with a will.

How do you get probate?

In order to get probate, or its equivalent if there’s no will, there are several steps you need to take.

1. Fill in a probate form. You can find a link to the probate form (PA1), which you need to fill in for someone who lived in England or Wales, on the HM Courts website. You can also download a guide to probate and a form that tells you how much the probate fees are.

In Scotland, the process you use for applying for confirmation depends on the size of the estate. If it’s worth less than £36,000, then it’s classed as a ‘small estate’. If it’s worth more, it’s a large estate. There’s information on how to apply for confirmation, for small estates and large estates, on the Scottish Courts website. In both cases, you have to fill in form C1, but if it’s a small estate you can get help from a sheriff clerk at your local sheriff court. If it’s a large estate, you’ll have to get help from a solicitor, if you need it. There’s also information on applying for grant of probate in Northern Ireland on the NIDirect website.

SAVVY TIP: If you’re in England or Wales, you can ring the probate and inheritance tax helpline if you’re having problems filling in the form.

2. You’ll need to fill in an inheritance tax form. The type of inheritance tax form you have to fill in depends on where the person lived and, if they lived in England or Wales, whether there is any inheritance tax to pay. There’s information on inheritance tax forms on the Gov.uk website.

3. You will need to send in the probate form, together with the fees. Currently the fee is £215 in England and Wales if you apply for probate or £155 if a solicitor applies.

SAVVY TIP: In Scotland, there’s no fee to pay if the estate is worth up to £50,000. If it’s worth between £50,001 and £250,000, the fee is £250 and if it’s worth over £250,000, the fee is £500. In Northern Ireland, there’s no fee to pay if the estate is worth up to £10,000. If it’s worth more than £10,000, the fee is £200, or £250 if you’re applying without a solicitor.

4. You will have to swear an oath. Once you’ve sent off the probate form, for England or Wales you’ll be sent an oath that you have to swear either at a solicitor’s office or at a your nearest probate office.

Probate fees from May 2017 in England and Wales

Probate fees are changing in England and Wales from May 2017.  In the future:

  • No fee will be payable on estates worth less than £50,000 or those that don’t need probate.
  • For estates worth £50,000 – £300,000, you’ll have to pay £300.
  • For estates worth £300,001 – £500,000, the fee will be £1,000.
  • For estates worth £500,001 – £1 million, the fee will be £4,000.
  • For estates worth £1 – £1.6 million, the fee will be £8,000.
  • For estates worth £1.6 – £2 million, the fee will be £12,000.
  • For estates worth over £2 million, the fee will be £20,000.

When do you need to get probate?

Officially, you don’t need to get probate if someone died and had savings below £5,000 in their own name, and didn’t own property, land or shares outright. And if, for example, your husband, wife or civil partner died and the home was owned jointly as joint tenants and any savings were in joint accounts, you wouldn’t need to get probate. That’s because property owned as joint tenants and money that’s in a joint account automatically passes to the surviving person when the other dies, whether or not there’s a will. If there’s a small amount of savings that someone who has died had in their own name, you may not need to get probate (see below).

Savings limits for probate

If the person who died had savings in his or her name, then whether or not you’d need to get probate would depend on how much they had and which bank or building society they held the savings with. Not all apply the limit of £5,000.

Here’s what the major banks and savings providers do:

Barclays: the limit is £50,000. If the person had less than £50,000 in savings with Barclays (in one or more accounts combined), you wouldn’t need to get probate to access the money. There’s information on what to do when someone dies on Barclays’ website.

First Direct: For amounts up to £20,000, you don’t need to get probate. There’s information on telling First Direct about a death on the bank’s website.

HSBC: The limit used to be £20,000, but this limit was removed and now all cases are assessed individually. Customers can pay funeral bills directly in a bank branch, which means bills can be paid in two hours (previously it was eight days). There’s information on telling HSBC about a death on the bank’s website.

Lloyds Bank: For amounts up to £50,000, you don’t need to get probate. This limit applies to the three Lloyds Bank banking brands individually. So, someone could have could have £50,000 in Halifax Bank, £50,000 in Lloyds Bank and £50,000 in Bank of Scotland and you wouldn’t need to get probate for them. More information about bereavement is available on the Lloyds Bank website You can also find information about bereavement on Halifax’s website.

NS&I: For amounts up to £5,000, you normally don’t need to get probate. There’s more information about making a claim when someone’s died on the NS&I website.

NatWest: For amounts up to £25,000, you don’t need to get probate. You can also find information about bereavement on NatWest’s website.

Nationwide: For amounts up to £30,000, you don’t need to get probate. There’s a guide to bereavement  on Nationwide’s website.

RBS: For amounts up to £25,000, you don’t need to get probate. There’s more information about bereavement on the RBS website

TSB: For amounts up to £25,000, you don’t need to get probate. There’s more information about bereavement on the TSB website.

Related articles:

Dealing with debts when someone dies

Changing a will after someone’s died; using a deed of variation

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