Find out about probate in Northern Ireland

How to establish if someone is eligible to inherit with a grant of probate or letter of administration

Probate is the process whereby a will is “proved” in a court of law and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last testament of the deceased. In the absence of a legal will, an estate is settled according to the laws of intestacy in the state of residence in the deceased at time of death.

The probate process in Northern Ireland is very similar to that of England and Wales. Before you apply for probate you need to check whether there is a will.

If the person left a will, you will get a sealed ‘Grant of Probate’. Banks and building societies may request to see sealed probate in Northern Ireland.

If the person did not leave a will, referred to as Intestate, you’ll get ‘Letters of Administration’.

A grant is almost always needed when the person who died leaves one or more of the following:

  • £20,000 or more
  • Stocks or shares
  • Certain insurance policies
  • Property or land held in their own name or as ‘tenants in common​

In most cases, the bank or relevant institution will need to see the grant before transferring control of the assets. Where the estate is small some organisations may choose to release the money to you without a grant.

​You may not need a grant if the deceased left less than £20,000, or if everything was jointly owned with someone else in which case everything passes automatically to the surviving joint owner.

Northern Irish probate law requires a fee to be paid to the court for any probate application where the assets are valued at more than the £10,000 threshold, however. If you are on a low income, or if you are on certain benefits, you may not have to pay a fee, or you may be eligible for a discounted fee.

When is a solicitor needed?

Speaking to a solicitor

If you are at all uncertain about what information to include or how to value assets for probate in Northern Ireland, it is always worth using a solicitor to make sure all the forms are completed correctly. Also, if there is any possibility of someone challenging the will or your actions again it is worth talking to a specialist probate solicitor as early as possible to discuss your options. Try looking for someone who carries the letters TEP after their name as this denotes membership of the internationally recognised body STEP (Society of Trusts and estates Practitioners) which requires passing stringent exams and ongoing competency requirements to prove their worthiness of retaining their qualification).

If there is any chance of the matter being challenged it is always worth consulting with a solicitor who carries the letters ACTAPS (Association of Contested Trusts and Probate Practitioners) as they will have a wealth of knowledge and experience in this challenging area of law and may help you decide your course of action thereby saving you possibly many months and even years of unnecessary heartache.

Solicitors can also help you understand whether the wording of a will for probate is likely to cause any disputes and navigate these if required.

Enquiring with NI Gov

You can also contact probate@courtsni.gov.uk to speak to someone.

Valuing the estate

As part of the process, you need to value the estate, which involves collating all the information on the deceased’s land, property, money, possessions, shares, and debts. The total value of these assets will determine which forms you will need to complete.

For estates under the current Inheritance Tax threshold, you will need to complete the IHT205 form.

If the estate is over this threshold, you will need to complete the IHT400 form.

The interview

Once you have completed all the documents you will need to send a completed appointment request with a copy of the death certificate, IHT205/IHT400, and a copy of the will if there is one.

If the deceased lived in the counties of Fermanagh, Londonderry, or Tyrone, you can use either the Londonderry or Belfast office, but if they lived in the counties of Antrim, Armagh, or Down, you must use the Belfast office.

When you attend the appointment, you will need the following documents:

  • Photo ID for Executors
  • Death or Coroner’s Certificate
  • Inheritance Tax Form (IHT205 or IHT400/421)
  • Original will
  • Marriage Certificate (if there is no will and the deceased was married)
  • Decree Absolute (if there’s no will and the deceased was divorced)
  • Probate fee payment
  • Other forms required by The Probate Office

The Probate Office will try to give you an interview within three weeks of getting your appointment request form. You will be notified of the appointment date/time by telephone or letter.

The interview will take place in a probate office and will last about 30 minutes.

If the deceased person left a will, at least seven days must have passed from the date of death to the date of appointment. If there is no will, 28 days must have passed.

Fees

The fees to be paid are based on the net value of the estate and are made up of two parts; the grant fee and the personal application fee.

The personal application fee is only charged if you are applying for a grant without a solicitor.

Certified copies of a grant cost £14.00 each. These are useful if you must deal with several financial institutions.

If you think you’ll have trouble paying the fees, you may be able to get help. Find out more at this link: Court fees

A cheque should be made payable to the NICTS for the total fee:

  • Application for Grant Fee: £261.00 (if the estate value is less than £10,000 the application fee does not apply)
  • Personal Application Fee: £65.00 (if the estate value is less than £10,000 the application fee does not apply)
  • Fee for an extra sealed copy of the grant: £14.00

If you wish to pay the fees by card payment, you should indicate this on the application form and a member of the court staff will contact you to arrange payment.

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