1. Overview

When someone dies, you’ll need to get the legal right to deal with their property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’).

England and Wales

You may be able to apply for a’grant of representation’ - known as ‘probate’.

You can apply yourself or use a solicitor or another person licensed to provide probate services.

Most cases follow the same basic process.

  1. Check if there’s a will - this normally states who sorts out the estate. If there’s no will the next of kin can apply.

  2. Apply to get a ‘grant of representation’ - this gives you the legal right to access things like the person’s bank account.

  3. Pay any Inheritance Tax that’s due.

  4. Collect the estate’s assets, eg money from the sale of the person’s property.

  5. Pay any debts, eg unpaid utilities bills.

  6. Distribute the estate - this means giving any property, money or possessions to the people entitled to it (‘beneficiaries’).

A grant of representation can sometimes be known as a ‘grant of probate’, ‘letters of administration’ or ‘letters of administration with a will’.

When a grant of representation may not be needed

You don’t normally need a grant if the estate either:

  • passes to the surviving spouse/civil partner because it was held in joint names, eg a savings account
  • doesn’t include land, property or shares

You should contact the organisation holding the money, eg the bank or building society. They may ask for proof of death, eg the death certificate after the death has been registered.

Each financial institution has its own rules - you may still need to apply for a grant.

Scotland and Northern Ireland

This process is called ‘confirmation’ in Scotland and ‘grant of probate’ in Northern Ireland.