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Guide to obtaining copies of probate records


What is a Grant of Representation?
How do I find out whether a Grant has been taken?
Where are the Calendars kept?
WillFinder
What if I cannot get to First Avenue House or a Registry?
What if I do not have the full information?
What if I cannot find an entry in the Calendar?
What is a Standing Search?
I know the details of the Grant - how do I get the copies I want?
How long does it take to obtain copies?
What does it cost?
What about Probate Records before 1858?
Addresses
Further information

What is a Grant of Representation?

A grant of representation is a document issued by the Court which enables the person(s) named in it to deal with the assets and belongings ['estate'] of the deceased. It allows the money in banks, building societies etc. to be collected, property to be sold or transferred and debts to be paid. There are three types of grant of representation:

All these documents give the same authority to administer the estate. Throughout this guidance, the word 'grant' will be used to describe all three.

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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. Since 1998, 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:

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. If you write into a Registry there is a £5 fee payable.

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Where are the Calendars kept?

The only place where there is a complete set of calendars (from 1858) available for public inspection is First Avenue House in London. 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.

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WillFinder

A new computer system is avialbale 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.

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What if I cannot get to First Avenue House or a Registry?

If you write to a registry, officials will make a search on your behalf. There is a charge for this but if a grant is traced, the search fee includes the provision of a copy of the grant and (if any), the Will. If a grant is not traced a letter will be sent to you to tell you this.

You must write to:
Postal Searches and Copies Department 
York Probate Sub-Registry
1st Floor, Castle Chambers
Clifford Street
York YO1 9RG

Please provide the full name, address and date of death of the deceased, stating what you require and enclosing the appropriate fee which is £5 for the first copy and £1 for every additional copy .

Requests cannot be accepted by telephone or email.

Due to a significant increase in the volume of search requests there is currently a delay in the processing of search applications at York Probate Sub Registry. We are taking steps to rectify this and apologise for any inconvenience this delay may cause. Information regarding the length of time we are currently taking to process applications is given on an automated message on the telephone number 01904 666778.

If you are making a new search application and know the grant issue date and office please provide this information in your request letter as this will ensure we are able to process your applications as quickly as possible.

If you have a query relating to a personal application for a grant and wish to attend the York Probate Sub Registry for your interview please contact the Newcastle District Probate Registry on 0191 2112170.

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What if I do not have the full information?

If you are prepared to spend the time, you might be able to find what you are looking for with very little information other than the surname of the deceased.

If you ask the Registry 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.

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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.

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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.

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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 at First Avenue House or any District Probate Registry and some Sub-Registries. You should state the full name of the deceased, the date of the grant, the Registry where it issued, what copies you want and pay the appropriate fee. You may order copies by post or by attending any Registry. Telephone or email orders cannot be accepted.

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How long does it take to obtain copies?

The length of time taken to supply copies varies, depending upon where the original documents are kept. In some cases if you visit a registry we may be able to give you a copy 'on the spot' but generally we have to order them storage where the original documents are held.

The Probate Service aims to supply copies within 21 working days of your application.

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What does it cost?

Payment should be made by cheque or postal order, payable to HMCS.

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.

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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,
Kew,
Richmond,
Surrey, TW9 4DU
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/

Tel: +44 (0) 020 8392 5330

or your local authority archivist for guidance.

The National Archives also have a research guide, http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=220, on where to start your research prior to 1858.

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Addresses

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: 3rd Floor, Coronet House, Queen Street, Leeds LS1 2BA
Tel 0113 386 3540

Liverpool : Queen Elizabeth II Law Courts, Derby Square, Liverpool L2 1XA
Tel 0151 236 8264

London: Principal Registry of the Family Division, First Avenue House, 42 - 49 High Holborn, London WC1V 6NP
Tel 020 7947 6043/6939

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

York: 1st Floor, Castle Chambers, 5 Clifford Street, York YO2 9RG

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Further information

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.


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This page was last updated on 05 November 2010 11:33. Probate Service.
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