Anyone can search for probate records online. Doing so will allow you to see whether probate has been granted in respect of someone’s estate. If the deceased left a will, this becomes a public record once probate is granted, which you’ll also be able to see when conducting your probate search.
You don’t need to give a reason why you’re searching for probate records, although you might be doing so because:
- A loved one has died without a will, and you’re not sure if a sibling or anyone else has applied for probate, and you’re one of their closest living relatives
- You’re named as a joint executor but believe another executor has acted unilaterally to deal with the estate
- You need to know who the deceased’s executor or personal representative is because you wish to make a claim against the estate
- You’re looking to trace relatives
Searching for probate records online
You can search probate records for anyone who has died since 1857. Using the service at GOV.UK, you can:
- Search probate records in England and Wales
- Check if probate has been issued
- Check the type of probate issued, which will depend on whether or not the deceased left a will
- Order yourself a copy of a probate record for £1.50
If the deceased left a will, you’ll receive this alongside the relevant probate record.
How do you do it?
Searching probate records online is straightforward. When you go to GOV.UK, you only need to enter the deceased’s surname and year of death to search. You can also add their first name if you wish and will need to answer if they died serving in the armed forces between 1850 and 1986.
You then move to a second screen, where you can refine your search further by entering:
- Any specific keywords, such as where the deceased lived
- The deceased’s day and month of death, if you know it
- The day, month, and year probate was granted, if you know it or have been informed of it by an executor or personal representative
Finally, you come to a results page where you see any relevant probate records for your search. You then select the probate records you wish to view and pay the applicable fees. Once you have done this, you’ll have access to the probate records in question and any associated will for 31 days.
Requesting probate records by post
If you don’t want to search online, you can request probate records by post. You’ll need to fill in Form PA1S and send this with your payment to the relevant address. You usually receive any probate records and associated wills within four weeks of making your application.
If the deceased died recently, you can use the same form to request a copy of a grant of probate if one is granted in the next six months. This is known as a standing search and costs £3. If probate is not granted within six months, you can pay to extend this further and continue doing so until probate is granted or you no longer wish to be notified when it is.
What if I can’t find a probate record but know the person is dead?
There are many reasons this might happen.
First, if you’re looking for a probate record or will of someone who died before 1996, how these records were stored was different from how it is now. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, try searching the years after the person died. Pre-1996 records are stored under the year the grant of probate was issued rather than the year the person died. If someone died towards the end of the year or there was a delay in the executor or personal representative seeking probate, their probate record may be logged in a later year.
If you’re looking for a probate record or will of someone who died in the early 1990s, you may need to check the records from 1996 onwards.
Secondly, it’s worth remembering that not every estate requires probate. Probate may not have been needed if the deceased:
- Jointly owned assets like property or had a joint bank account, as these would have automatically passed to a surviving spouse
- Only had a small sum of savings
What if I want to challenge a probate application or a will?
You can only challenge a probate application, known as “entering a caveat,” before probate is granted. If you find a probate record online, you’re too late to challenge whether the person making the application was right or legally able to do so.
You can, however, challenge the contents of a will or the actions of an executor. You should contact a contentious probate specialist for legal advice if you wish to do this.
If you need to apply for probate, LawPlus Solicitors can help
If your probate search has highlighted that a loved one’s estate isn’t being dealt with and you want to apply for a grant of probate, we can help you.