Last updated: August 10th 2021
What is a grant of probate?
A grant of probate, included in a grant of representation, is a legal document giving the executor of someone’s will the legal permission to administer the person’s estate.
This means paying debts on the deceased person’s behalf and distributing their property, money and belongings in accordance with their wishes. This process is also known as probate.
How much does probate cost in the UK?
If the estate is valued under £5,000 then applying for probate is free. If it is worth more than that, it costs:
£215 in England and Wales (although this is lowered to £155 if you apply through a solicitor)
£200 in Scotland (note that in Scotland the process is slightly different and is called confirmation)
£220 in Northern Ireland
There are also additional fees associated with probate, which vary depending on the complexity of the estate and whether you apply yourself or with the help of a legal professional.
It’s also worth paying to get several extra copies of the grant of probate – the standard is at least 5 extras. If you get them at the time, they cost just £1.50 per copy.
Probate solicitor fees
The cost of hiring a solicitor to carry out probate on your behalf varies significantly depending on the value and complexity of the estate, as well as the methods different firms use to calculate their fees.
Usually you can expect somewhere between 1 and 5 per cent of the value of the estate to go on probate fees (so, for example, if the estate is valued at £100,000 your probate fees may range between £200 and £1,000). This is not including VAT or any court or application fees.
Some firms also charge an hourly rate on top of that. However this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be more expensive, as they may take a lower percentage of the estate value. There are also some firms that offer a fixed fee based on an estimate of the work involved. Most banks also offer similar administration services, but often at a higher price than a solicitor or specialist probate company.
Because of the different methods probate fees can be calculated with, it can be hard to work out whether you’re getting a good deal. If you’re an executor and you’re looking for someone to administer the estate on your behalf, comparing prices from a number of firms is a great way to ensure you’re getting the best service for the best price.
Do I need to apply for probate?
If you are the executor of a will you’ll need to apply for probate in order to administer their estate. Usually the will states who the executor(s) will be.
Only one person can apply for probate. However if there are multiple executors named in the will then up to four can be named on the application.
If there are multiple executors named in the will but only one executor on the application, the lone executor will need to prove that they attempted to contact all other executors prior to making the application.
If you’ve been named as an executor but you do not want to apply for probate, you have a number of options:
Renunciation: Fill in a renunciation form to completely give up your rights
Power reserved: Reserve your right to apply for probate if another executer is unable to
If the person did not leave a will then the laws of intestacy apply and any beneficiary of the estate can apply for a grant. This person is known as an ‘administrator’ as opposed to an ‘executor’ and they will apply for a grant of ‘letters of administration’, not ‘probate’.
When you don’t need probate
In the vast majority of cases obtaining probate will be a necessary step. However, you may not need to if:
The deceased’s assets were all jointly owned, as they’ll automatically pass onto the surviving owner(s)
The deceased only had savings or premium bonds
As each organisation (e.g. banks) has their own rules about distributing assets, you’ll need to contact each asset holder to find out whether they require you to have a grant of probate.
Can you do probate without a solicitor?
Yes – hiring a solicitor is entirely your choice and it’s possible to carry out the whole process yourself.
However it’s estimated that the probate process usually takes between 9 and 12 months to finalise, longer if the estate is complex or if problems occur. These could include difficulty in locating a beneficiary or someone contesting the will. There is a lot to do in the administering of an estate, so many people choose to appoint a solicitor to work on their behalf.
The costs of applying for probate vary significantly based on the simplicity of the case and the size of the estate. Whether or not you’re happy to pay solicitor’s fees on top of that is entirely a personal decision, but many people find having an experienced professional guide them through the process makes them feel more confident.