Probate and Will, Trust & Estate Disputes

Publish date

20 November 2023

When do you need probate?

After someone’s death, their personal representatives have to administer their estate in accordance with their Will (or the intestacy rules, if they died without a Will).  One of the early steps in this process is to search through the deceased’s papers and prepare a list of their assets and liabilities.  The personal representatives then have to ask whether they need a Grant of Representation (probate) to deal with the deceased’s assets.  The answer to this question can often be unexpected.  Some personal representatives presume that an estate is too straightforward to require probate, whereas others believe probate is always required.  So what are the rules?

There are some assets which will always require probate.  For instance, if someone dies owning property in their sole name or in joint names as tenants in common, their personal representatives will need probate in order to deal with that property.  If, however, someone dies without owning property, or owning property in joint names as joint tenants, then their personal representatives might not need probate after all, depending on the other assets in the estate.

Bank (or building society) accounts and shares are some of the more common assets.  In each case it is up to the individual asset holder to decide whether they will require probate before allowing the assets in their care to be encashed or transferred.  This comes down to each asset holder’s tolerance to risk and almost all banks have set a value threshold, below which they will not normally require probate.  The thresholds for some of the larger banks are as follows:

  • Barclays – £50,000
  • Halifax – £50,000
  • Lloyds – £50,000
  • Nationwide – £50,000
  • Santander – £50,000
  • Virgin Money – £35,000
  • Britannia – £30,000
  • Co-op Bank – £30,000
  • Yorkshire Building Society – £30,000
  • Bank of Scotland – £25,000
  • Birmingham Midshires – £25,000
  • NatWest – £25,000
  • RBS – £25,000
  • Tesco Bank – £25,000
  • TSB – £25,000
  • Sainsbury’s Bank – £20,000
  • M&S Money – £15,000
  • Skipton Building Society – £15,000
  • Woolwich – £15,000
  • Post Office – £10,000
  • Bank of Ireland – £10,000
  • NS&I – £5,000
  • First Direct – case by case basis*
  • HSBC – case by case basis*

*If the beneficiary is the deceased’s spouse then the threshold is up to £50,000; if the deceased’s children inherit, then the threshold is up to £30,000.

With estates which include shares, it is more likely that probate will be required.  However, some registrars do offer share dealing services without probate, in certain circumstances.  These services are often called ‘Small Estate services’ or similar.  In the same way as the banks, some registrars set a threshold for the value of shares, below which they will not normally require probate.  Some of the thresholds for popular registrars are as follows:

  • Equiniti – £20,000
  • Link – £20,000
  • Computershare – £5,000

These thresholds have been compiled from various websites and are believed to be correct at the time of writing.  They are, however, subject to change and each asset holder retains the right to require probate for every estate, even if the value of the accounts held by it are below its set threshold.

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