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What is probate and do I need it?

The word ‘probate’ is often misunderstood. It conjures up images of months of difficulty and delay. This is not inevitable and many simple probates are finished quite easily in a month or so.

Put simply, a probate is a piece of paper, nothing more. It is a document issued by the Probate Registry confirming that an executor has the right to wind up an estate of the person who has died.

The ‘estate’ is the house, money and savings left by someone when they pass away. The ‘executor’ is the person chosen in the will to sort out the estate and make sure it goes to the people named in the will.

Do I have to have it?

This depends upon the size of the estate. Quite often, when the estate is very small no probate is needed.

How do I get it?

By filling in some forms. If the estate is small the forms do not have to give full details of it.

The important form is the ‘Executors Oath’. This is not usually available from stationery shops but can be found in books about probate. It has to be sworn as being true.

For more information on probate see GOV.UK – Wills, probate and inheritance.

Do I have to use a solicitor?

No, but it helps. You can also apply direct to the Probate Registry yourself.

Most solicitors offer probate services and their fees depend upon the amount of work necessary and the size of the estate. Always ask them first.