My Macmillan

Sorting out an estate

If you make a will, the executors (who you appoint in your will) have the job of sorting out your estate. If there’s no will, usually your next of kin do this, for example your partner or grown-up children.

Sorting out an estate involves:


Your executors can either do this themselves or hire a solicitor to help with some or all of the tasks.

Getting probate or confirmation

Your estate can’t be distributed to your beneficiaries until a certificate has been granted, stating the amount you owned and owed when you died. This is known as probate in England, Scotland and Wales, and confirmation in Scotland. Your executor’s names are on the certificate, and it allows them to sell or transfer your estate so that it can be distributed.

The time it takes to get probate or confirmation will vary, depending on the circumstances. If the estate is straightforward, it may only take a few weeks. But in more complicated cases it can take many months, and in some cases years.

Some money and possessions can go straight to your beneficiaries without waiting for probate/confirmation. These include:


For guidance on sorting out an estate and paying tax, call the Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline on 0300 123 1072 or visit: