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A Guide to obtaining copies of Probate Records
What Records are available?
Almost all Wills proved and Grants of Representation issued in England and
Wales since 1858. Grants of Representation and proved Wills are public
records; anyone is entitled to obtain copies of them. However, not all
estates need a Grant to be taken or a Will to be proved: copies are only
available if a Grant has issued.
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:
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 pamphlet, 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.
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:
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 gross value of the estate
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 First Avenue House in London. Most District Probate
Registries have calendars covering at least the last fifty years. If you
ntend to visit a Registry specifically to look at the records, you are
recommended to contact the Registry beforehand [a list of addresses and
telephone numbers appears overleaf] to check what is available.
What if I cannot get to First Avenue House or a Registry?
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.
You must write to the Postal Searches and Copies Department at York
(addresses overleaf) giving the full name, address and date of death of the
deceased, stating what you require and enclosing the appropriate fee.
Requests cannot be accepted by telephone.
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
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.
What if I cannot find an entry in the Calendar?
If the death occurred a long time ago [years], 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. If you think that a grant is
likely to issue, you may wait for a while before making another search,
or ask for a 'standing search' in the estate.
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
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 at First Avenue House or
any District Probate Registry. 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 orders cannot be accepted.
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 we may be able to give you a copy
'on the spot' but generally we have to order them from the place where the
original documents are held.
The Probate Service aims to supply copies within 21 working days of your
What does it cost?
If you make your own search and order copies at the counter: £5
(this includes a copy of the will, if any) additional copies of
the same document costs £1 per copy
If you make your own search and order copies by post: £5 for each
estate: this fee includes a copy of the Will [if any], regardless
of the number of pages, and a copy of the grant.
If you write to York and ask for a search: £5 (This covers the
four year period from the date of death). There is a further search
fee of £3 for each subsequent 4 year period searched. If a
grant is traced, the fee includes a copy of the Will [if any],
regardless of the number of pages, and copy of the grant.
If you wish to write for a search and/or copy, you should write to
The Postal Searches & Copies Dept, York Probate Sub-Registry,
Duncombe Place, York, YO1 7EA
where a special unit deals with such requests.
A 'standing search' [and extension of a 'standing search']. £5
this includes a copy of the grant and a copy of the Will.
Payment should be made by cheque or postal order, payable to
H M Paymaster General.
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 Family Records Centre,
1 Myddelton Street,
London EC1R 1UW
Tel. 020 8392 5300
or your local authority archivist for guidance.
Calendars may be inspected and copies ordered at any of the offices shown
Birmingham: The Priory Courts, 33 Bull Street, B4 6DU
Tel 0121 681 3400
Brighton: William Street, BN2 2LG
Tel 0127 368 4071
Bristol: The Crescent Centre, Temple Back,BS1 6EP
Tel 0117 927 3915
Cardiff: 2 Park Street, CF10 1TB
Tel 029 2037 6467
Ipswich: Level 3, Haven House, 17 Lower Brook St, IP4 1DN
Tel 01473 253724
Leeds: 3rd Floor, Coronet House, Queen Street, LS1 2B4
Tel 0113 243 1505
Liverpool: Queen Elizabeth II Law Courts, Derby Square, L2 1XA
Tel 0151 236 8264
London: The Record Keeper, Principal Registry of the Family Division,
First Avenue House, 42 - 49 High Holborn, London WC1V 6NP
Tel 020 7947 7000
Manchester: 9th Floor, Astley House, Quay Street, M3 4AT
Tel 0161 834 4319
Newcastle Upon Tyne : 2nd Floor, Plummer House, Croft St, NE1 6NP
Tel 0191 261 8383
Oxford: Oxford Combined Court Building, St. Aldates,
Oxford. OX1 1LY Tel 01865 793 055
Winchester: 4th Floor, Cromwell House, Andover Road, SO23 7EW
Tel 01962 853046
This leaflet 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.