My father passed away leaving two Virgin Money fixed-rate bonds. I am both the executor and beneficiary of the will.
The two bonds added together are above the probate limit. Can I transfer the bonds into my name to avoid applying for probate?
G. Taylor, email
If your late father's Virgin Money savings are above £25,000, you will not be able to access his money without probate.
Generally speaking, you need a grant of probate - an official document that authorises you to deal with the estate - if assets are valued at more than £5,000.
However, banks and building societies set different probate limits, which can make it very confusing.
Virgin Money increased its limit from £15,000 to £25,000 in October 2015. This is based on the total value of all accounts held with it, including accrued interest.
If your father held less than £500, Virgin Money would accept a death certificate and signed form without a witness in order to release the funds.
If his savings were between £500 and £25,000 it would need a death certificate and statutory declaration form completed and witnessed by a solicitor. Balances over £25,000 need a grant of probate.
Lloyds Bank's probate limit rose from £25,000 to £50,000 in November 2015. RBS has also increased its limit from £15,000 to £25,000.
HSBC does not have a probate limit but assesses each case individually, rather than by the value of the estate.
National Savings & Investments says it may ask for a grant of probate if savings are more than £5,000.
Peter King, head of probate at Nockolds, the law firm, said if you held the bonds with your father jointly the money would have been transferred to you automatically with no need for probate.
However, even then, the transfer may be subject to inheritance tax if the overall estate is valued at more than £325,000. This is not the case with joint accounts held by spouses and civil partners as transfers between them are exempt from inheritance tax.
How to get a Grant of Probate
As executor of your father's estate, you would have been named in the will as the person in charge of your late father's affairs. However, you may still need to apply for probate before you can actually begin to deal with the estate.
You do not tend to need a grant if the estate either passes to the surviving spouse or civil partner because it was held jointly or if the assets do not include land, property or shares.
Before applying, Mr King said you must find out how much the estate is worth and list the value of the assets and liabilities, such as unpaid utility bills or any outstanding mortgages, and any gifts made in the past seven years.
Mr King said it would take "no more than a few months" to sort out a simple estate, such as one that is just cash and personal possessions. He warned it could take longer if there is inheritance tax owed.
Executors will need to fill out a probate application form and an inheritance tax form. These will need to be sent along with the will and an official copy of the death certificate, plus three copies.
There is an application fee of £215 that must be paid by cheque and made payable to HM Courts and Tribunals Service. If inaccuracies are discovered in the forms, HM Revenue and Customs may impose a fine.
You will then need to swear an oath - a promise that the information you have given is true. This can be done by appointment at your local probate office.
You can also use a solicitor for this process, in which case the procedure is slightly different. Your solicitor will usually arrange for the papers to be signed locally, without a visit to the probate office.