On some occasions it may be possible to deal with someone’s estate without needing to apply for probate.
When someone dies, the person named as executor in their Will is responsible for collecting in, valuing and distributing their assets.
Whether or not that person needs to apply for probate depends on the value of the estate and how any assets were held.
If an estate only has a modest amount of money, it may be classed as a small estate and probate might not be necessary.
There is no exact definition of a small estate, although as a rough guide estates worth less than £5,000 may qualify.
Each bank has its own different threshold under which it will close an account and release funds without requiring a Grant of Probate, ranging from around £5,000 to £50,000.
The same applies to share registrars, life assurance companies and pensions administrators. Where the estate is fairly small, then it is worth enquiring of the asset holders what documentation they will need.
Where the deceased owned a property in their sole name then probate will be needed to deal with the sale or transfer.
Similarly, if the property was owned as tenants in common with others, probate is required.
However, if a property was held by the deceased as a joint tenant, then it will automatically pass to the other owner(s).
Jointly held assets
Similarly, joint bank accounts and other jointly held assets will pass automatically on death to the survivor(s).
It is therefore always worth checking whether probate is necessary. If most of the deceased’s property passes automatically, then it may be possible to avoid the time and expense involved in applying for a Grant of Probate.
What documents will asset holders need?
If probate is not needed, asset holders will need to see a copy of the death certificate and may require the executor to complete a form called a ‘Small Estates Declaration’.
They may also ask to see a copy of the Will and identification, such as birth or marriage certificates.