What is Probate?

‘Probate’ is a term commonly used when talking about applying for the right to administer the deceased person’s estate. In practice, different terms are used, depending on whether or not the deceased person left a will and where they lived. This information covers probate in England and Wales.

Different terms associated with probate:


If the person who has died leaves a will

In this case one or more ‘executors’ may be named in the will to deal with the person’s affairs after their death. The executor applies for a ‘grant of probate’ from a section of the court known as the probate registry. The grant is a legal document which confirms that the executor has the authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets (property, money and possessions). They can use it to show they have the right to access funds, manage finances, collect and share out the deceased person’s assets as set out in the will.


If the person who has died didn’t leave a will

If there is no will, a close relative of the deceased can apply to the probate registry to deal with the estate. In this case they apply for a ‘grant of letters of administration’. If the grant is given, they are known as ‘administrators’ of the estate. Like the grant of probate, the grant of letters of administration is a legal document which confirms the administrator’s authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets.


When organising someone’s financial affairs you can either approach a solicitor for help or make the application for probate yourself. For further information on how to apply for probate without using a solicitor and to download the relevant forms you will need, please visit this government website:

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