Wills & Probate How to Guides...

When is Probate Not Required?

Reading time: 4 mins

Carrie Tennick, April 30, 2021

We know that when a loved one passes away, emotions run high and you’ll be dealing with a huge amount of grief.

At a time like this, the last thing you want to worry about is the administration of their estate. But in some cases, there will be a list of things to sort out. And to get these things done, you might need to apply for probate.

This won’t be true for every person, though. There are certain circumstances that mean you won’t need probate to sort out the estate of your loved one.

What is probate?

Probate is the process of sorting out what happens to the estate of someone who has died. Applying for probate means applying for the right to carry out the wishes of that person.

If that person left a Will behind, you’ll get a grant of probate. If they didn’t, you’ll get letters of administration. Once you have one of these, you can approach the institutions that held your loved one’s assets to begin dealing with inheritances.

Only certain people can apply for probate. For example, if there is a Will, you can only apply if you’ve been named in it or you’re the executor. You’ll also need the original Will, not a photocopy.

If there is no Will, the estate’s administrator will follow the same steps as applying for probate, but will get letters of administration. To become the administrator, you’ll usually have to be the closest living relative of the person who died.

This is usually a spouse or civil partner, followed by children over the age of 18, adult grandchildren, great-grandchildren, parents and siblings. There may be other relatives who can apply if no one else can.

But it’s important to remember that a partner who was not married or in a civil partnership with the person who died cannot apply to be administrator. Without a Will, a partner not in a legally recognised relationship won’t inherit anything. This highlights the importance of making a Will.

When is probate not required?

Not all estates will need probate. In some cases, you’ll need to contact each company that held an asset of the person who died to see if you need probate. This can include mortgage providers and banks.

In most cases, you won’t need probate if all your loved one’s assets were owned jointly. But there may be some exceptions, so it’s important to find out all the details of ownership and what is required.

  • Amount of money

You won’t need probate if the estate does not have enough assets to cover all of its debts, taxes and expenses. You also won’t need probate if the amount of money left by your loved one is small. The definition of ‘small’ depends on individual banks, so you’ll need to contact the bank they kept their finances in to check. The figure can range from £5,000 to £50,000. If your loved one had less than the cut-off amount, all that will be required to release the money will be a death certificate. Probate will be needed for a higher amount.

  • Joint finances

You may also not have to apply for probate when all the deceased person’s money was held in a joint account with someone else. The bank or building society will probably want to see a death certificate before transferring the money to the other owner, but probate usually won’t be needed.

  • Joint tenant

If the person who has died owned the home as a joint tenant with someone (usually a husband or wife), probate isn’t necessary. Their share of the home will pass automatically to their co-owner. But if the property was owned as tenants in common, probate may be required. Your loved one’s share of the home will not pass automatically to the other owner, so it must be dealt with on its own.

  • Life insurance in trust

If your loved one left a life insurance policy in a trust, you usually won’t need probate for the money to be transferred to the beneficiary. This is not a very common form of life insurance, but you may have to deal with it. It involves the policy being put into a trust until the policy owner’s death. Then the named beneficiary will inherit the money set aside for them.

  • Physical possessions

In some cases, an estate will only be made up of physical cash and personal possessions, rather than a property. If your loved one owned cash and belongings such as furniture, cars and jewellery, you may not need probate.

Do you need legal help with probate?

If you need help with probate or estate administration, our specialist probate solicitors could guide you through the process. To talk to our understanding and compassionate team, just give us a call or make an enquiry online and we’ll get back to you.

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