A grant of probate bestows the executor the authority to administer the estate of someone who has died, which includes tidying up their affairs and distributing their assets to their beneficiaries such as their children. Before you're able to deal with the deceased person's assets - such as their bank accounts - you'll need to obtain legal authority to act. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland this is called a grant of probate; in Scotland it's a grant of confirmation.
Only certain people can apply for probate to deal with the estate of someone who died. It depends on whether the person who died left a will. A will is a document made by the deceased that follows proper formalities, namely it must be signed and witnessed by two people.
If a will exists
You can apply for probate if you’re named in the will, or in an update to the will either by a codicil or by revoking the original will and making a new one. You will then become an ‘executor’.
You’ll need the original will and any updates to apply for probate. These must be original documents, not photocopies.
If you are named in the will and you do not want to be an executor you can give up your legal responsibility and role permanently (also known as ‘renunciation’) to apply for probate. Fill out the PA15 form on the government website to give up your probate executor rights.
If there is no will
The ‘administrator’ deals with the estate.
You can apply to become the estate’s administrator if you are 18 or over and you are the most ‘entitled’ inheritor of the deceased’s estate. This is usually the deceased’s closest living relative.
Relatives are the most entitled inheritors in the following order:
Once you’ve applied for the grant of probate you’ll receive ‘letters of administration’ to prove you have the legal right to deal with the estate. Please note that if you are the partner of the deceased but you two were not either married or in a civil partnership when they died you cannot apply to be the administrator.
Alternatively, if you’re the most entitled inheritor and you do not want to apply to be the administrator, you can either:
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