There are circumstances where is grant of probate is not needed before the personal representative can access the assets. The simplest one is where the assets do not exceed £5,000. This includes salary arrears, building society accounts and national savings products.
However the institution concerned will always need to see a copy of the death certificate and may also have its own rules for release of the funds. Usual ones are a certified copy of the will and an indemnity by the PR promising to compensate the institution if it subsequently transpires that it should not have made the payment.
Other assets that do not require a grant are personal and household property, but not cars as the PR needs the vehicle registration document. However there are a few matters the PR should check before he does anything.The assets were not jointly owned by anyone else; The assets are not included in the will as a gift; The assets are valued for IHT purposes before they are sold.
Not all assets pass to the PR on death. Assets that are jointly owned pass automatically to the other joint owner. So where a joint owner of a bank account dies, his interest automatically passes to the other owner without the need for a grant of representation. However the bank will require a death certificate.