What is probate

Probate is the legal right to deal with someone’s property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’) when they die.

You should not make any financial plans or put property on the market until you’ve got probate.

This guide and the service are also available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

There are different probate rules in Scotland and probate rules in Northern Ireland.

How to get probate

You need to apply to get probate. Before applying, you must check that it’s needed and that you’re eligible to apply. You also need to estimate and report the estate’s value to find out if there’s Inheritance Tax to pay.

Check if probate is needed

Contact the financial organisations the person who died used (for example, their bank and mortgage company) to find out if you’ll need probate to get access to their assets. Every organisation has its own rules.

You may not need probate if the person who died:

  • only had savings
  • owned shares or money with others - this automatically passes to the surviving owners unless they’ve agreed otherwise
  • owned land or property as ‘joint tenants’ with others - this automatically passes to the surviving owners

Check if you can apply for probate

Only certain people can apply for probate. Who can apply depends on whether or not there’s a will.

If there’s a will, executors named in it can apply.

If there’s not a will, the closest living relative can apply.

Value the estate and work out Inheritance Tax

Before applying for probate, estimate the value of the estate of the person who died and find out if you need to pay Inheritance Tax.

When you can apply for probate depends on whether or not there’s Inheritance Tax to pay.

Apply for probate

You can apply for probate online or by post after you’ve valued the estate.

Get help and advice

If you’ve not applied yet and have a question about applying for probate, contact the Courts and Tribunals Service Centre.

Courts and Tribunals Service Centre
Telephone: 0300 303 0648
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Closed on bank holidays
Find out about call charges
Email: contactprobate@justice.gov.uk

Stopping a probate application made by someone else

You can challenge an application for probate (‘enter a caveat’), before it’s granted. For example, if there’s a dispute about who can apply for probate or whether there’s a will.