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How long does probate take?

View profile for Jane Cox
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Probate and administration of the estate ordinarily takes between nine to 12 months, but as there are so many factors that can delay or impact the length of time, it is hard to give a definitive answer. Jane Cox, Partner in our Private Client department, explains the steps involved in probate and estate administration and provides more information on those factors that can impact the timescales.

There are several different stages in probate and estate administration; the first being applying for the Grant of Representation, which gives you legal authority to administer the estate.  This will either be a Grant of Probate (if there is a Will) or Letters of Administration (if there is not a Will).  The second stage is then administering the estate, which involves collecting in and then distributing the assets to the beneficiaries. 

How long does it take to apply for and receive the Grant of Representation?

Before applying for the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, the first thing you will need to do is ascertain whether there is a Will, as this will determine who the Executors are, and therefore who needs to apply for probate. 

Once this is confirmed, as an Executor, you will need to gather the following information:

  • The value of any property and other assets;
  • Monies remaining in the deceased’s bank account
  • Details of any investments
  • Details of any cash gifts given in the last seven years
  • Details of any outstanding debts

Using this information, you can then calculate the value of the estate and whether any Inheritance Tax is due, which is one of the most complicated areas of applying for the Grant of Representation as it is a complex area and there can be heavy consequences if this is incorrect or information is missing. 

In addition to these details, you will also need to obtain the death certificate and the necessary paperwork relating to ownership of any assets.  The length of time it takes to collate this information will depend on the time you have available to commit, as well as the speed of gaining access to documents and valuations from third parties and professional organisations, but on average this can take between two to four weeks.

Once you have completed the forms and calculated any Inheritance tax that is payable you can make the application once you have a receipt for the tax paid.

When you have submitted your application to the probate office, then it normally takes between three to four weeks to receive the Grant of Representation, however if the estate is  a sizeable one with more than one property and one bank account, for example, or there is Inheritance Tax payable it could take longer. 

How long does estate administration take?

Once you have received the Grant of Representation, it is now your responsibility to collect the assets, pay any debts and administration fees and divide up the net assets according to the Will, if there is one, or according to the rules of intestacy if there is not.  Depending on the assets and what is involved, this can take between six to nine months, if not longer, particularly if the Executor of the estate is not a professional and so is still managing their day to day lives while also making these arrangements. 

There are several other reasons why it could be delayed:

  • Property(ies) needs to be sold before distribution of any monies associated with the value of the estate.
  • Property(ies) need to be transferred to a beneficiary.
  • Any part of the estate needs to be liquidated.
  • There are debts and administration fees and inheritance tax to be paid prior to the distribution of other assets.
  • There is no Will and so the rules of intestacy need to be followed.  This could also open up the possibility of the estate being contested, which again will delay the process.
  • There is a Will which includes Trusts.

Jane explains, “One of the important factors of probate and estate administration is time. Following the death of a loved one you will naturally be going through your own grief and adjusting to a new life.  If you are then appointed as an Executor, you will also have to manage these responsibilities, and it is crucial that it is done correctly to avoid those delays and possible fines if the Inheritance Tax is not calculated and paid.  We unfortunately see on a regular basis Executors who have attempted to complete probate and estate administration themselves but they have made a mistake, through not fault of their own, and so we then have to start from the beginning, adding to the delays, cost and emotional distress that will already be experienced.  We offer a free 30 minute appointment to anyone who needs to complete this stage, so they can find out more about the process and how we can support them through it.”

To find out more about how Jane or the Private Client team can help you with probate and estate administration, call them today on 01329 222075 or email privateclientenquiry@warnergoodman.co.uk.  Alternatively, you can read more about the potential pitfalls of completing this yourself here

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.