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Applying for probate.

If you're an executor of someone's will you may need a legal document called a 'grant of probate'. It gives you the right to sort out the deceased person's affairs. If there isn't a will, you may be able to apply for a 'grant of letters of administration'.

This article deals mainly with the procedures for a death in England and Wales. The forms needed for Scotland and Northern Ireland are included, but you'll need to follow the separate links for detail on procedures.

If there's more than one executor

If there's more than one executor it's common to agree that one will apply for the grant and sort out the will. However up to four executors can apply jointly and sort out everything together.

Applying for a grant using a solicitor

You can ask a solicitor to apply for the grant for you. There may be a charge to provide this service, so it's a good idea to check first. You can search for a solicitor specialising in probate on The Law Society website.

Find a solicitor at The Law Society website (Opens new window)

Applying for a grant without a solicitor

The forms you need to complete depend on where the person lived and whether you expect Inheritance Tax to be due on the estate. Inheritance Tax is only paid in a small number of cases, when the value of the deceased person's estate (after exemptions) is over £325,000. This threshold applies for deaths in the 2011-2012 tax year.

More about Inheritance Tax can be found at the direct gov website

Applying for probate without the help of a solicitor

Applying for probate - forms you need to complete

You'll find the links to these forms below.

Country in which the deceased person lived
Required forms if Inheritance Tax is unlikely to be due ('excepted estates')
Required forms if you expect Inheritance Tax to be due
England or Wales
Probate application form  PA1

Inheritance Tax form IHT205

Probate application form PA1
Inheritance Tax form IHT400
Form IHT421 'Probate summary'
Scotland
Form C1 ('Inventory') and form C5 if they died on or after 6 April 2004; otherwise form C1 only
Form C1 ('Inventory')
Inheritance Tax form IHT400
Northern Ireland
Inheritance Tax Form IHT205 only
Inheritance Tax form IHT400
Form IHT421 'Probate summary'

There are additional supplementary forms that accompany the IHT400. Use the IHT400 notes to help you decide which you need to complete.

Next steps if you completed the tax form IHT205

In order to obtain probate, you'll need to attend an interview to confirm the details in your application.

  • decide which venue you'd like to be interviewed at by referring to the list at form PA4 (link below)
  • send all your forms, and the additional documents and probate fee requested on the PA1 checklist, to the appropriate controlling Probate Registry office for that venue (see the later sections on fees)
  • you'll receive an appointment for an interview within about ten days of sending in your application
  • if everything is satisfactory you should receive the grant of probate by post soon after the interview

For the procedures in Scotland or Northern Ireland follow the links at the end of this section.

Next steps if you completed the tax form IHT400

In order to obtain probate, you'll need to attend an interview to confirm the details in your application.

  • decide which venue you'd like to be interviewed at by referring to the list in form PA4 (link below)
  • send the form PA1 'Application for probate', and the additional documents and fee requested on the PA1 checklist, to the appropriate controlling Probate Registry office for that venue (see the later section on fees)
  • you'll receive an appointment for an interview within about ten days of sending in your application
  • send form IHT421 and form IHT400 to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) - you'll find the relevant address in the IHT400 notes
  • if you have worked out that there is tax to pay you will need to get an Inheritance Tax reference and payslip - you'll find out how to do this in the IHT400 notes
  • if you've indicated that you'd like HMRC to work out the tax for you they will do this and tell you what is due
  • once any tax due has been paid, or if there's no tax to pay, HMRC will stamp and return form IHT421 to the Probate Registry office confirming this
  • the Probate Registry office will issue the grant

If the deceased person lived or was domiciled abroad and no tax is due, or if the grant is needed for 'settled property' on which no tax is due, send form IHT400 and form IHT421 to HMRC before sending your papers to the Probate Registry. See page 56 of the IHT400 notes.

If the deceased person lived in Scotland or Northern Ireland:

The cost of a grant

There's no fee to pay if the amount left in the deceased person's sole name after funeral expenses and debt payment (the 'net estate') is £5,000 or less. If the net estate is over £5,000 the fee is £105. Extra copies of the grant cost £1 each if ordered at the time of application.

If payment will cause you financial hardship, you can ask for 'remission' from payment. Ask the Probate Registry staff for forms EX160 and EX160a, or download them using the links below.

If the executor can't or doesn't want to apply for probate

An executor can also appoint someone else (apart from a solicitor) to apply for a grant on their behalf. This person is called their 'attorney', and must fill in form PA1 and send it to the Probate Registry. The attorney must include a signed letter from the executor explaining that they want the attorney to apply on their behalf.

Further information

If you have any queries about applying for probate, call the Probate and Inheritance Tax helpline on 0845 302 0900. Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.