Just because we have a Will, that does not automatically mean that upon our death the people dealing with our affairs (Executors) can then immediately begin sharing out our estate according to the terms of our Will.
If a deceased person owns property in their sole name or as a joint tenant in common with another person, or if they have significant savings (approximately £25,000 plus) in one bank account/Personal Equity Plan (PEP)/Individual Savings Account (ISA) or Premium Bond holding, or if they hold more than approximately £10,000 in one shareholding, then the Executors of their Will must obtain permission from a government department known as the Probate Registry before the estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries of the Will. This permission is known as a “Grant of Probate”.
Only once the Executors of a Will have obtained this Grant of Probate from the Probate Registry can they then commence with liquidating and distributing the relevant assets of a deceased person’s estate.
It is a myth that you must use a solicitor firm to obtain a Grant of Probate, and this is an extremely expensive and unnecessary route to take. It is not uncommon to pay over £6,000 to a solicitor to obtain a Grant of Probate, and so-called “legal services” firms often charge even more than this. This is an unregulated and inconsistent marketplace where practitioners are free to charge whatever they like, so please be aware that it pays to shop around.
Some firms prey upon Executors who may well also be beneficiaries of a Will and may not miss several thousand pounds if they are set to inherit much more than this exorbitantly over-priced fee.
Some Executors are confident enough to apply for Grant of Probate directly with the Probate Registry. However, if Executors are not confident to apply to the Probate Registry directly, they can cap the cost at no more than £850 to obtain the same outcome, merely by carrying out some worthwhile research.
For further details please refer to our Probate page.