Is probate necessary? Find out when probate is needed.

Is probate necessary when someone dies?

It is not compulsory to go through probate when someone dies. The requirement for going through probate and obtaining a grant depends on the assets in the deceased’s estate. Depending on what the deceased owned you may be able to complete the estate administration without obtaining a grant.

Probate is likely to be required when the deceased held assets in their sole name. The most common triggers are:

1) Property held in a sole name or tenants in common

The Land Registry will insist on seeing a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration before any change of ownership can take place i.e. before a sale can be completed or a transfer of ownership by way of assent to a beneficiary (form AS1).

2) Over £5000 held with a bank or building society

Banks and Building societies set their own threshold for the value of cash they are willing to release without seeing a Grant of Probate. They will insist on seeing a grant for amounts over their threshold. Thresholds can be between £5000 at the lowest and £50,000 at the highest.

3) Pensions or Insurance Policies

Pensions and insurance providers will also decide how much they are willing to pay out without seeing a grant of probate. Depending on what type of policy has been created and if there will be a cash pay-out will determine whether the institution asks to see a grant.

Is probate necessary if there is a Will?

Probate can still be required even when the deceased left a valid last Will and Testament. The existence of a Will is not a direct factor when determining whether an estate needs probate.

However, having a Will can increase the amount of cash that institutions are willing to release without seeing a grant. In some circumstances that could result in all of the deceased assets being released without any institution asking to see a grant.

Is probate necessary when there is no inheritance tax to pay?

Probate can still be required, and often is, even when there is no inheritance tax to pay. The only factor that dictates the need for probate is the type of assets the deceased held.

When the total value of the estate is less than the £325,000 IHT threshold there is no inheritance tax to pay. However, when applying for probate you must still complete an Inheritance Tax form as part of your application.

Is probate necessary if there is no property?

Probate can still be required even if the deceased person did not own property. If they had a large amount of cash or investments in their sole name with a financial institution such as a bank, building society, share portfolio, National Savings etc. then a grant may be required before funds can be released.

List of Bank Thresholds for Probate 

All financial institutions have thresholds. These vary from institution to institution. If the amount invested is below the threshold, then the institution will release the funds usually on the production of the Will, death certificate and identification for the executors. If the investment is above the threshold, then they will ask to see a grant before funds are released.

Barclays – £50,000

TSB – £25,000

Nationwide – £50,000

HSBC – £30,000     

NS&I Premium bonds – £5,000

Post Office – £10,000   

CoOp – £30,000           

Yorkshire BS – £30,000        

West Bromwich BS – £15,000 

Hargreaves Lansdown – £35,000       

Lloyds – £50,000

Natwest – £25,000

Santander – £50,000

NS&I – £15,000 

Virgin – £35,000     

Tesco – £25,000

Chelsea BS – £30,000

Leeds BS – £40,000

Halifax BS – £50,000

RBS – £25,000

To find out for sure if you will be asked for a grant contact the institution holding the funds to ask what their threshold for probate is and whether they want to see a grant in order to release them.

Is probate necessary if there is a trust?

Assets held in trusts do not usually require probate. Assets that are held in trust are usually already allocated to a specified beneficiary. For example, an insurance pay-out can be assigned to a named beneficiary in Trust. These assets do not fall under the deceased’s estate or their Will and as such probate is usually not required.

Is probate necessary if there are no assets?

Everything the deceased owned is an asset, therefore it is unlikely that a person will have no assets at all. However, for probate to be required the deceased must own assets of at least £5000 (if there is no Will. Refer to bank thresholds.) with an institution.

Even if the deceased had no property, bank accounts, shares, pensions, insurances etc their estate will probably still contain some form of chattel and personal possessions. These kinds of assets are not protected by a third party, for example like an account with a bank is. Therefore, probate is not required in order to administer them.

Is probate necessary when a spouse dies?

Probate can still be required even if there is a surviving spouse. Assets in joint names do not qualify for probate. However, if the deceased owned property or bank accounts with contents over the institution’s threshold in their sole name, a grant will be required.

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