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

If the person left a will, you’ll get a ‘grant of probate’.

If the person did not leave a will, you’ll get ‘letters of administration’.

You apply for both in the same way.

The process is different in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

You may not need probate if the person who died:

  • had jointly owned land, property, shares or money - these will automatically pass to the surviving owners
  • only had savings or premium bonds

Contact each asset holder (for example a bank or mortgage company) to find out if you’ll need probate to get access to their assets. Every organisation has its own rules.

How a probate application works

  1. Check if there’s a will. There’s a different process if there’s no will.

  2. Value the estate and report it to HMRC.

  3. Apply for probate.

  4. Pay any Inheritance Tax that’s due.

  5. Collect the estate’s assets, for example money from the sale of the person’s property.

  6. Pay off any debts, for example unpaid utilities bills.

  7. Keep a record (‘estate accounts’) of how any property, money or possessions will be split.

  8. Pass the estate (‘distribute the assets’) on to the people named in the will (‘beneficiaries’).