What is Probate?

Probate advice, guide to the probate process and a set of documents with help to apply for probate

Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person's 'estate' – the property, possessions, money, for example, that they leave behind. If the deceased person has a Will, they will usually have nominated one or more people known as 'executors' to manage the probate process.

It is the responsibility of the executors to apply to the Probate Registry for a 'grant of probate' which will give them the authority to administer the deceased's estate.

If a person has died without a Will (known as 'dying intestate') and therefore has no nominated executors, his or her next of kin can apply for the right to administer the estate in a particular order of priority. This is known as applying for a 'grant of letters of administration'. Next of kin include a lawful wife or husband or civil partner, sons or daughters, parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents and uncles and aunts of the deceased. The people that the grant is issued to are called 'administrators'.

If a person has died, leaving a Will, but the Will does not successfully appoint executors, the people named to benefit under the Will have the first right, in a particular order of priority, to apply for a 'grant of letters of administration (with Will annexed)'. Again, the people that the grant is issued to are called administrators.

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A probate application involves completing a 'Probate application form (Form PA1)' and attending at the probate office or at a solicitor's office to swear an oath. It covers applications for a grant of probate or for a grant of administration. The issue of a grant allows the executors or administrators to collect, sell and distribute the deceased's assets, for example, property and shares.

In order to establish the value of the deceased's assets, bank and savings accounts and pensions, for example, the executors or administrators will need to write to the various providers requesting this information. Individual letters or a pack of letters are available through the MyLawyer website and are easy to complete.

The information on this page applies to England and Wales only.

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