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.