Wills, Probate & More page

what to do


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’).

If the person left a will

A will states what should happen to a person’s property and belongings (‘estate’) after they die. It’s usually valid if it’s been signed by the person who made it and 2 witnesses.

An executor is someone named in the will, or in an update to the will (a ‘codicil’), as a person who can deal with the estate.

An executor usually applies for probate to deal with the estate.

You need the will and any updates to apply for probate. These must be original documents, not photocopies.

Find the original will

The person who died should have told all the executors where to find the original will and any updates, for example:

  • at their house
  • with a solicitor
  • at the London Probate Department you’ll need the death certificate and to prove you’re the executor to be sent the will

Get help from a legal professional or Citizens Advice if you cannot understand a will or codicil.


You’ll need to fill in a lost will form if you cannot find the original will.

Only the most recent will is valid. Do not destroy any copies of earlier wills until you’ve received probate.

You can apply to be an ‘administrator’ of the estate if the person did not leave a will. The process is the same as applying for probate.

You’ll receive ‘letters of administration’ to prove you have the legal right to deal with the estate.

You can usually apply if you’re the person’s next of kin, for example their spouse, civil partner or child. You can apply if you were still married or in a civil partnership with the person when they died, even if you were separated from them. You cannot apply if you’re the partner of the person but were not their spouse or civil partner when they died. You’re not automatically entitled to any of your partner’s estate.

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