Guide to obtaining copies of probate records
What is a Grant of representation?
A grant of representation is a document issued by the court which allows a person deal with the assets and belongings ['estate'] of the deceased. There are three types of grant of representation:
- Probate: granted to the executors named in the Will
- Letter of Administration [with Will]: granted to someone other than an executor when the deceased left a valid Will, and
- Letters of Administration: granted when the deceased did not leave a Will.
All these documents give the same authority to administer the estate. Throughout this guidance, the word 'grant' will be used to describe all three.
How do I find out whether a Grant has been taken?
There is no time limit by which a grant must be obtained. A search of the Probate Calendar [National Index] will reveal whether a grant has issued. There is a calendar for every year from 1858 up to date. Prior to 1973, the calendars were in book form but after that they were recorded on microfiche. The calendar from 1996 onwards is kept on computer.
Entries are made in the calendar in the year in which the grant issued [which is not necessarily the year in which the deceased died] and are arranged in alphabetical order by the surname of the deceased.
The amount of information given in the calendars has changed slightly over the years, but every entry will include the following details:
- full name and last address
- the date of death
- the type of grant issued
- the Registry at which the grant issued and the date of issue
- the value of the estate - in cases where inheritance tax has been paid the exact figures for both the gross and net estate are shown but for excepted estates the net estate figure is shown rounded up to the nearest £1000
The calendars include all grants issued throughout England and Wales.
There is no charge for you to search the calendars yourself. If you need any help, staff will explain how you can do this.
Where are the calendars kept?
The only place where there is a complete set of calendars (from 1858) available for public inspection is court 38 in the Royal Courts of Justice. Most District Probate Registries have calendars covering at least the last fifty years. If you intend to visit a Registry specifically to look at the records, you are recommended to contact the Registry beforehand to check what searching facilities are available and when these are available to the public.
A new computer system is available in some Registries which allows a search for grants issued after 1920. Details of the date or year of death and full name are required. Please telephone the Registry you are intending to visit before you travel to make sure the system is available for public use.
What if I cannot get to the Royal Courts of Justice or a Registry?
For a search to be made you should complete form PA1S (Application for a General Search) and enclose the fee. If you know the details of when the grant issued these can be entered on the form. Send the completed form to:
Postal Searches and Copies Department
Leeds District Probate Registry
Please provide the full name, address and date of death of the deceased, stating what you require and enclosing the appropriate fee which is £6 for the first copy and £1 for every additional copy .
What if I do not have the full information?
If you ask the Postal Searches and Copies Department to make the search for you, we will do our best with whatever information you can supply, but without at least the correct full name, and the year from which you want the search to begin it will not be possible to identify the correct record.
What if I cannot find an entry in the Calendar?
If the death occurred a long time ago, it probably means that a grant was not needed, in which case we will be unable to help you further. If the death was more recent, it may mean either that no grant was needed, or that a grant has not yet been obtained as there is no time limit for applying for probate.
If you think that a grant is likely to be issued, you may wish ask for a standing search in the estate to be placed on the probate computer system. This request will stay on the system for 6 months and a grant will automatically be sent to you if and when it is issued. The standing search may be extended after 6 months has passed if nothing has been issued.
What is a Standing Search?
A standing search is valid for six months, and if a grant issues within that time, you will automatically receive a copy of the grant and a copy of the Will.
You may extend a standing search for further six month periods until you either receive a copy or conclude that a grant is unlikely to be taken.
I know the details of the Grant - how do I get the copies I want?
Once you know when and where a grant issued, you can have copies of the grant and the Will (if any). You may order copies in person at court 38, Royal Courts of Justice or any District Probate Registry and some Sub-Registries.
Or you can complete form PA1S and send it to:
Postal Searches and Copies Department
Leeds District Probate Registry
How long does it take to obtain copies and what will I receive?
The Probate Service aims to supply copies within 4 weeks of your application. You will receive a copy of the document(s) you have requested. The grants will not usually be sealed unless you are the executor or there is a particular reason why you need a sealed copy.
If we cannot find any documents relating to the estate you are interested in, we will write and tell you so within 4 weeks.
What does it cost?
The fee is £6 for a copy of a grant and/or will for each deceased person. This includes a search of four years after the date of death if you are not sure when the grant was issued. If you want more than one copy of a particular grant and/or will you will need to pay an additional £1 for each copy.
If you are not sure of the date of death or the date the grant was issued you can pay for us to search the index for you. It costs £4 for each four year period.
Payment should be made by cheque or postal order, payable to HM Courts & Tribunals Service.
If you are applying from outside the UK, payment should be made by international money order expressed in pounds sterling. If you attend an office in person, you may of course pay cash.
What about Probate Records before 1858?
The Probate Service does not hold any records or documents prior to 1858. If you require information about these, you are recommended to contact:
The National Archives,
Surrey, TW9 4DU
Tel: +44 (0) 020 8392 5330
or your local authority archivist for guidance.
The National Archives also have a research guide on where to start your research prior to 1858.
Calendars may be inspected and copies ordered at any of the offices shown below. If you are local to a sub-registry it is worthwhile contacting them by telephone in the first instance as some sub-registries do have searching facilities.
Birmingham: The Priory Courts, 33 Bull Street, B4 6DU
Tel 0121 681 3400
Brighton: William Street, Brighton BN2 0RF
Tel 01273 573510
Cardiff: 3rd Floor, Fitzalan Place, Cardiff CF24 0RZ
Tel 029 2047 4373
Ipswich: Ground Floor, 8 Arcade Street, Ipswich, IP1 1EJ
Tel 01473 284 260
Leeds: Leeds District Probate Registry, York House, York Place, Leeds LS1 2BA
Tel 0113 389 6133
Liverpool : Queen Elizabeth II Law Courts, Derby Square, Liverpool L2 1XA
Tel 0151 236 8264
London: Court 38, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL
Tel 020 7947 6997
Manchester: Ground Floor, Civil Justice Centre, 1 Bridge Street West, PO Box 4240, Manchester M60 1WJ
Tel 0161 240 5700
Newcastle Upon Tyne: 1 Waterloo Square, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 4AL
Tel 0191 211 2170
Oxford: Oxford Combined Court Building, St. Aldates, Oxford. OX1 1LY
Tel 01865 793055
Winchester: 4th Floor, Cromwell House, Andover Road, Winchester SO23 7EW
Tel 01962 897024
This guidance explains the procedure for obtaining copies where grants issued in England and Wales, for information regarding grants issued elsewhere in the UK and in the Irish Republic you should contact:
Scotland: H M General Register Office
Up to 1985: H M Register Office, H M Register House Princes Street, Edinburgh EH1 3YY
Tel 0131 535 1352
After 1985: H M Commissary Office, 27 Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1LB
Tel 0131 247 2850
N Ireland: Probate & Matrimonial Office, Royal Courts of Justice [Ulster], Chichester Street, Belfast BT1 3JF
Tel 028 9023 5111
Rep Ireland: Probate Office, Four Courts, Dublin
Tel Dublin 725555
If you require further information you may contact any Probate Registry.