Probate is the process of proving that a will is valid, and obtaining the authority to deal with the estate of someone who has died. Applying for probate is one of the core duties of an executor, and so it is recommended that you discuss what is involved with anyone you are considering making an executor before you appoint them in your will. For a breakdown of the duties of an executor, please see our Executors page.
Probate is usually an obligatory step (unless the estate is very small), because when someone dies it is not immediately possible to access their assets. For example, ordinarily only the owner of a bank account can transfer the money inside it. For the bank to release any funds to the executors, so that it can be transferred to the people specified as beneficiaries in the will, they need to be provided with a grant of probate.
Exactly what is involved in applying for probate depends on whether or not there is a valid will. Our What is probate? page outlines the differences between the two processes and explains how long probate is likely to take.
Obtaining probate involves applying to the Probate Registry for a grant of representation. If you left a will, the grant is known as a grant of probate, and on intestacy it is called a grant of letters of administration.
Before a probate application can be made, your executors will need to produce a valuation of your estate, and pay any Inheritance tax that may be due. The Probate Registry provides a number of forms to use to make the application, all of which are explained on our Grant of probate page.
Applying for probate can be difficult if your estate is complicated. If it is not likely to be a straightforward administration, your executors would do well to consider appointing a professional to complete the process on their behalf.
(If a term is in bold, that means it's in our Glossary.)