As a Solicitor specialising in the area of Private Client law, one question I am frequently asked by someone appointed as an executor of an estate is, “do I need a grant of probate?”
A grant of probate is a government-issued document allowing executor(s) appointed in a will to deal with the administration of the estate and collect estate assets. Where there is no will, letters of administration can be issued to relatives entitled to inherit under the intestacy rules. Both of these types of documents come under the heading of “grants of representation” but throughout this article I will use the term “grant of probate”. (Another type of grant is “letters of administration with will annexed” but this is less common.)
The answer to whether a grant is needed really depends on the assets in the deceased’s estate, as opposed to the size of the estate per se. Some assets require a grant of probate to be dealt with and others do not. If the deceased owned a property in his or her sole name, for example, and it is to be sold or transferred, then a grant of probate will certainly be needed. If the deceased held just one bank account with a balance of, say, a few hundred pounds, then almost certainly a grant of probate will not be needed.
The requirements for whether or not a grant of probate will be needed are set by the organisation holding the assets. Each organisation has their own threshold. Nationwide Building Society, for example, currently stipulate that any balances over £30,000 require a grant of probate to be administered. Barclays however set their threshold at £50,000. (These figures are correct as at August 2018.)
So if an estate comprised ten accounts with different banks and each account at date of death had a balance of, say, £10,000 then the total estate would of course be worth £100,000 and it is unlikely a grant in this example would be needed to collect estate assets. However, another estate worth just over half of this, say £55,000, but this time with all of the assets held in one bank, almost certainly would require a grant for the executors to collect the estate monies.
Again, it is the amount held for each asset determining whether probate is needed, not the total size of the estate. Another point worth mentioning is that assets held in joint names passing by survivorship on death to the surviving joint holder of the asset usually do not to require a grant of probate.
Every case, however, has its own circumstances and if you are unsure as to how an estate needs to be administered or whether a grant is required, please speak with a Solicitor.
This article was written on 14 August 2018 and the law may change following this date.
Richard Tinkler is an Associate Solicitor based at the Helliwell House office in Wroxham.
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