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What is probate?

The probate process

All advice contained within this section relates to England and Wales only.

When someone dies leaving a will, the persons named as the executors may need to obtain a grant of probate in order to deal with the deceased’s estate. The grant of probate is issued by a court called the Probate Registry and confirms the legal right to manage and distribute the estate according to the deceased’s will.

If the person died without leaving a will or there are no executors to a will, the process is a little more complicated. A family member (who may instruct a solicitor) can apply to the court for a grant of letters of administration. The person who applies is known as the administrator.

The general term for a grant of probate and letters of administration with or without a will, is a grant of representation.

Which? Legal can help

Which? Legal's probate specialists can guide you through each step of the probate process and answer any questions that you may have about obtaining a grant of representation including:

  • which family members can apply to act as an administrator of a deceased person’s estate. Priority is based on a strict order defined in the rules of intestacy
  • the pros and cons of instructing a professional to deal with the estate
  • the role and responsibilities of executors and administrators
  • how long the process of obtaining a grant of representation will take

Our specialist advisers provide individual, jargon-free legal advice on applying for probate or letters of administration.