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Dealing with probate: which banks make it harder than others?

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
When it comes to dealing with a person’s estate on death, some financial organisations make the process harder than others, research reveals.

Probate allows someone – usually the executor appointed in a will – to apply for the grant of probate, giving them authority to deal with, and distribute, a deceased’s estate – their property, money and other possessions.

This means a lot of paper work, as it is necessary to deal with organisations from banks to utility companies to investment platforms. Campaign group Which?’s research reveals some financial organisations are making the process unnecessarily onerous.

It asked nearly 100 members who acted as executors in the past five years about their experience dealing with banks, building societies and investment providers.

Which? said the results reveal a big gap between best and worst as fewer than four in ten of those who dealt with Barclays Stockbrokers said this was easy compared with eight in 10 for Virgin Money.

The table below shows how executors rated the ease of the probate process with each firm involved:


The research found that executors dealing with Barclays reported lost paperwork, long delays and administrative errors, such as failure to close accounts.

Which? found that executors reported investment platforms being tougher to deal with than banks – those who had gone through Barclays Stockbrokers said there were long delays and administrative errors. Another point raised was that settling investment accounts can incur fees which can be per account or per fund or share held. A charge of £10 per fund isn’t unusual.

The table below shows whether banks and other financial organisations will allow executors to release money without probate:


Tips on making the probate process run smoothly

Here are the Which? members’ tips:

Planning: Forward planning is essential. Make accounts joint wherever possible.

Death certificates: Order more copies of the death certificate than you think you need. It’s much more expensive to get more copies afterwards.

Investments can complicate valuations: You can still receive dividends after selling shares. The values might not be high, but it means you’ll need to keep the executor account open for longer

Account keeping: Keep detailed records, in diary form as well as by account and asset.

Prepare in advance: If the person is terminally ill there’s a lot you can do before they die to get paperwork in order.

Be persistent: Speak to the complaints department if you feel no-one is listening to you.

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