Applying for probate

Following a death you may need to get a Grant of Probate or if the deceased didn’t leave a Will, a Grant of Letters of Administration. This official document allows you to deal with a deceased person’s estate. You can apply for a grant directly or by using a solicitor.

About probate

Probate is a term commonly used when talking about applying for the right to deal with the affairs of someone who has died. However, you’ll find that different terms are used, depending on if the deceased person left a will and where they lived.

If the deceased has a will, the executor or administrator will apply for a Grant of Probate. The grant is a legal document which confirms that the executor has the authority to deal with the deceased person's assets (property, money and belongings). This is called 'administering the estate'.

The Executor uses the grant to show they have the right to access funds, sort out finances, and collect and share out the deceased person's assets as set out in the will.

If the deceased didn't leave a will, a close relative of the deceased can apply to the probate registry to deal with the estate. In this case they apply for a 'Grant of Letters of Administration'. If the grant is given, they are known as 'administrators' of the estate.

The grant of letters of administration is a legal document which confirms the administrator's authority to deal with the deceased person's assets.

In some cases, for example, where the person who benefits is a child, the law states that more than one person must act as the administrator.

You may also hear the terms ‘personal representative’ and ‘grant of representation’. A personal representative is the executor or administrator and grant of representation is a general term used for grants of probate and grants of letters of administration.

Grant

A grant is almost always needed when the person who died leaves one or more of the following:

  • £20,000 or more
  • stocks or shares
  • certain insurance policies
  • property or land held in their own name or as 'tenants in common'

In most cases above, the bank or relevant institution will need to see the grant before transferring control of the assets. However if the estate is small some organisations, such as insurance companies and building societies, may choose to release the money to you.

You may not need a grant if the deceased:

  • left less than £20,000
  • owned everything jointly with someone else and everything passes automatically to the surviving joint owner

To find out if the assets can be obtained without a grant, the executor or administrator would need to write to each institution informing them of the death and enclosing a photocopy of the death certificate and will if there is one.

Find out how to value the estate of someone who has died.

Inheritance tax

You’ll need to deal with inheritance tax before you can apply for probate. 

The tax form you need to complete depends on if you expect inheritance tax to be due on the estate. Inheritance tax is paid if a person’s estate (their property, money and belongings) is worth more than £325,000 when they die.

You can ask a solicitor to help you value the deceased's estate or you can do it yourself. 

There are additional forms that accompany the IHT400. Use the IHT400 help notes to help you decide which you need to complete.

If you do have Inheritance Tax to pay, you should send forms IHT400 and IHT421 together with any payment of Inheritance Tax, if you've already worked this out, to HMRC. Use the address on the form.

If you've indicated on the form that you'd like HMRC to work out the tax for you they will do this and tell you what is due. Once any tax due has been paid, or if there's no tax to pay, HMRC will stamp and return the IHT421 to you. You'll need the stamped IHT421 for the probate interview.

You can contact the Probate and Inheritance Tax helpline if you need any advice or help.

Find out more about Inheritance Tax and how to pay it, including paying early or by instalments.

Applying for a grant using a solicitor

You can ask a solicitor to apply for the grant for you. There is normally a charge to provide this service, so check out this cost first.

You can search for a solicitor specialising in probate on The Law Society of Northern Ireland website.

Applying for a grant without a solicitor

Covid -19 and probate applications  

New arrangements for personal applications for probate are in place due to Covid-19. 

Currently, to apply for a grant of probate without using a solicitor, you should:

  • fill in the Probate Application Form (also available by request from the Probate Office)
  • enclose all the necessary documents
  • send your application to:

The Probate Office
Royal Courts of Justice
Chichester Street
Belfast
BT1 3JF

It is advised you send your application by registered or recorded post and retain a copy of all documents or you can leave the documents at the Drop Box at the reception at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Documents you’ll need

You will need to enclose:

  • a completed Probate Application Form (this form is also available from the Probate Office on request)
  • a copy of the correct Tax Form
  • certified copy of the Death Certificate or Coroner's Certificate
  • the original will and any codicil (a document that makes changes to the original will) 
  • certified copy of the Marriage Certificate if the deceased died without a will and was married or certified copy of the Decree Absolute, if the deceased was divorced
  • cheque for payment or a contact telephone number if you wish to pay by card
  • copy of the Photo ID - acceptable forms of ID include:
    • a UK, Irish or EEA full or provisional driving licence (photographic part)
    • a UK, Irish or EU passport A UK, Irish or EU passport
    • an Electoral Identity Card
    • a Translink Senior SmartPass
    • a Translink 60+ SmartPass
    • a Translink War Disabled SmartPass
    • a Translink Blind Person’s SmartPass

Getting the correct tax form

You need to complete the correct tax form when you apply for a grant whether or not inheritance tax is owed. You must enclose with your application a fully completed IHT205 form or a stamped IHT421 form.

To get the correct tax form for your probate application you should contact the HMRC - Inheritance Tax Office. You can telephone their Helpline 0300 123 1072 or visit the HMRC website for information about inheritance tax.

Useful information

Do not attach anything to the will by staple or pin.

Do not remove any fastenings from the will.

Keep a copy of any will or codicil you send.

    Fees and how to pay

    A cheque should be made payable to the NICTS for the total fee:

    • Application for Grant Fee : £261.00 (if the estate value is less than £10,000 the application fee does not apply)
    • Personal Application Fee: £65.00 (if the estate value is less than £10,000 the application fee does not apply)
    • Fee for extra sealed copy of the grant: £14.00

    If you wish to pay the fees by card payment you should indicate this on the application form and a member of staff will contact you to arrange payment.

    Processing the application

    You will get a letter, usually within 10 days, confirming your application was received, if all the information and correct documentation has been sent.

    The Probate Office may contact you about your application if for more further information and/or documentation is needed to progress your application.

    If you cannot provide the necessary information and documentation needed, it could be decided that your application is not suitable to be made as a personal application. In this case, you will need to instruct a solicitor to make the application on your behalf.

    This letter will also provide you with a copy of the a Statement of Truth and Nothice of Application which you need to sign and return to the Probate Office. 

    A Statement of Truth is a declaration that the evidence provided in support of the application is true and accurate.

    Next steps after signing the Statement of Truth

    If all the necessary documentation is correctly provided, The Probate Office will contact you to arrange an appointment at the Probate Office (Belfast) or the District Probate Registry (Londonderry).

    You will be required to bring along the original version of the photo ID you submitted with your application.

    You will also be provided with details about the safety measures in place to prevent and mitigate the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission during face-to-face appointments and also to advise you what will be expected of you on the day.

    What happens at probate appointments

    A member of staff will verify your ID and ask you to initial the will (if applicable) and the Death Certificate or Coroner's Certificate in front of them. The verification process will only take a few minutes.

    Arrival of grant

    The grant will be posted to you usually within five working days of your appointment – together with any copies you have paid for.

    Probate fees

    The fees to be paid are based on the net value of the estate and are made up of two parts, the grant fee and the personal application fee.

    Net value of the estate Grant fee Personal application fee
    less than £10,000 nil nil
    more than £10,000 £261.00 £65.00

    The personal application fee is only charged if you are applying for a grant without a solicitor.

    Certified copies of a grant cost £14.00 each. These are useful if you have to deal with several financial institutions.

    If you think you'll have trouble paying the fees you may be able to get help. Find out more at this link:

     

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