Administration of Estates

What does an estate mean to you? Perhaps a grand house and acres of parkland like Blenheim Palace. Or perhaps a lot of similar looking houses built by a developer. You may be surprised to know that nearly everybody has some sort of estate. ‘Estate’ is a convenient legal shorthand term for everything you own – house, savings, investments, furniture, household contents – particularly when talking about what happens to it after your death.

When you die your estate has to be collected in, your debts and any inheritance tax  paid, and the remaining estate handed on to your family. This is called winding up an estate.

If you have made a Will, your estate is wound up with by your executors  in accordance with your Will If you have not made a Will then you are intestate and the law decides who gets what. If you die intestate your estate is wound up by administrators – they do the same job as executors and just have a different name. In the rest of this page, where we refer to executors we also mean administrators.


Before your executors can wind up your estate they need official authority to deal with things. After all, you wouldn’t want somebody poking into your affairs before your death, and even afterwards you would want to make sure that only the right people can wind up your estate. It is therefore necessary to obtain probate of your Will.

If you die intestate, your administrators obtain letters of administration, which for practical purposes is the same as probate, just a change of terminology. When we refer to probate in the rest of this page, we also include letters of administration.

Probate is issued by the Probate Registry, which is part of the High Court. The executors have to make a formal statement setting out all the relevant facts and this is sent to the Probate Registry with the Will (if any). If  everything is in order, about a month later the Probate Registry will issue the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. If you apply for probate through solicitors there is no need for the executors to attend court – the application is dealt with by post.

The Probate Registry charges a fee of £155 for processing the application. There is also a small fee for official copies of the probate which are useful to have when you wind up the estate.

For information about the costs of administering an estate, please click here.

Do I need a Solicitor to obtain probate?

If you are an executor you can make a personal application to the local Probate Registry, but an application through a solicitor is usually quicker:

The Probate Registry charges an additional fee for personal applications.

If the total estate is less than £325,000, (or less than £1,000,000 if all the estate is left to a surviving spouse or civil partner, or to charity) we can apply for probate on your behalf by submitting a summary account of the estate to HM Revenue & Customs. If you make a personal application you have to supply a detailed account, even if the estate is only worth £10,000.

If you have the Will and death certificate, and know roughly what the estate is worth, we can prepare the Executor’s Statement and arrange for you to sign it within a few days. For a personal application you normally have to visit the Probate Registry at least twice and you can often wait several weeks for an appointment.

If you are the executor a small estate, we are happy to deal with the application for probate for you and leave you to deal with winding up the estate. We will quote a fixed fee for obtaining probate. For further information and advice please contact our City Centre office.