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What is the difference between probate and estate administration?

Posted by Nigel Merchant | 29-Nov-2022 09:05:00

When someone close to you dies and you’re dealing with the estate, it is easy to get overwhelmed when considering the upcoming tasks and the unfamiliar language associated with them. Firstly, it is important to understand the basics; this blog post aims to answer some of the most common questions associated with handling an individual’s estate after they have died, including:

  • What is probate?
  • What is estate administration?
  • What is the difference between probate and estate administration?

You might be aware of probate but you may not have heard of the term estate administration. Although both are related to dealing with the deceased’s estate, they have different definitions and people often get the two confused.


What is probate?

Probate may be required when someone passes away. The umbrella term, Grant of Representation, refers to the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration (if there is no Will) in England & Wales. This is called Confirmation in Scotland.

Although probate is often mistaken as the term for all tasks involved in handling a deceased person’s affairs, it only refers to obtaining the grant that enables you to carry out these tasks.

If there is a Will, the Testator (the person who created the Will) should have named an Executor to deal with its contents, including applying for probate if necessary. There can be multiple Executors named in a Will. However, only one can be named on the Grant of Probate.

If the person died without a Will – known as dying intestate – an Administrator will be appointed by the court to deal with the estate. This individual is usually the deceased’s next of kin.

What does applying for probate involve?

In England & Wales (Grant of Probate)

In Scotland (Confirmation)

Completing the application via a PA1P (if there is a Will) or a PA1A (if there is no Will)

Submitting a C1, along with other forms (C5, C5SE or IHT400) depending on the make-up of the estate

  • If the death was on or after 1 January 2022 and meets the criteria to make it an excepted estate, you will not need to submit an Inheritance Tax (IHT) form. Otherwise, an IHT form will also be required. Click here to read our blog on IHT reporting for excepted estates
  • All of the details, including the death certificate, must be sent to the Probate Registry
  • With an original Will and death certificate, as well as the full value of the estate, you can apply for probate online. However, documents must still be sent by post following the online submission
  • Applications usually take up to 8 weeks from submission. However, legal professionals and applicants have experienced longer wait times in recent months, largely caused by HMCTS backlogs. Applications can also be delayed when mistakes are made, such as missing documentation and IHT information. Read our blog on stopped applications and the steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of this happening


When is probate required?

Probate is usually required if the deceased owned any property in their sole name or if a financial institution (e.g. a bank or building society) needs to see the Grant of Probate in order to release the funds. Individual institutions will have differing thresholds for probate.

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Probate is not likely to be needed if the assets were held jointly as they will automatically pass to the surviving spouse or civil partner.

A common misconception is that probate is not required if there is a Will. However, if there are solely owned assets or the estate value is over the financial institution’s threshold, a Grant of Probate is still necessary whether the individual passed away with a Will or intestate.

There is a set government fee of £300 for obtaining the Grant of Probate. However, if the estate value is £5,000 or less, there is no fee payable. If you choose to instruct a professional to obtain probate on your behalf, there will be an additional cost. Read our blog to find out more about probate fees and how they can be paid.


What is estate administration?

Estate administration is the process of handling all of a person’s legal and tax affairs after they’ve died. In short, this means dealing with their assets, debts, and taxes before distributing inheritance to the estate’s beneficiaries. If you are an Executor or Administrator, it is your responsibility to administer the estate or instruct a professional to complete estate administration on your behalf.

Learn more about our solutions for estate administration.

What is involved in the estate administration process?

Obtaining the Grant of Probate is usually a part of estate administration but beyond that it could involve:

  • Completing Inheritance Tax forms
  • Income Tax work
  • Postal redirection
  • Registering or selling properties
  • Valuing assets
  • Cancelling or transferring utilities
  • Dealing with shares and investments
  • Distributing funds to beneficiaries
  • And more

Estate administration can often be extremely complex and time-consuming, adding stress at an already difficult time for the Executor or Administrator. However, they do not have to take full responsibility for all tasks. They can choose to appoint a professional to handle the estate on their behalf.

Kings Court Trust is happy to help with the administration of all estates. We are award-winning estate administration specialists who know how to handle everything from intestacy to foreign shares. Our unique service allows you to leave the challenging tasks to us and handle everything on your behalf, giving peace of mind during bereavement.

Click here to download our free 'We take care of estate administration' guide.

How long does it take to administer an estate?

As each estate is unique, it is almost impossible to predict exactly how long the process will take without knowing more specific details about the estate. Estate administration is a complicated legal process; therefore, it should be expected that it will take months rather than weeks.

What is the difference between probate and estate administration?

To sum up the difference between probate and estate administration, probate is just one part of the wider estate administration process. Probate provides you with the legal right to move forward with estate administration. Although probate is not always required, estate administration must always be carried out, regardless of the value or complexity of the estate.

Kings Court Trust is an expert in estate administration and has helped thousands of families. We offer a range of services, from applying for the Grant of Probate only, to full estate administration for a transparent, fixed fee.

If you have any questions about applying for probate or the estate administration process, get free guidance and advice from our Client Services Team by calling 0300 303 9000 or completing the form below.



Author: Nigel Merchant

Nigel Merchant is a Technical Manager at Kings Court Trust, where he has worked for over 15 years. Nigel has conducted over 2,000 family meetings and built up a huge amount of technical knowledge to share with partners and clients. Nigel has a calm and empathetic delivery which helps to achieve the business’ purpose of helping families to move on. Previously, Nigel worked at HSBC bank for over 25 years in the branch network, lastly as a Branch Manager and Personal Banking Manager, highlighting that customer service is a key driver for Nigel.

Topics: Estate Administration, Grant of Probate, Probate, Probate Fees