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How long does probate take?

Beneficiaries often ask how long it will take to receive their inheritance.

The short answer is that “it depends”.

Every estate is as unique as the person who owned the assets. If the person rented their home and only had one bank account, naturally the process is quicker than someone who owned a house which needs to be sold, or someone who has 10 accounts with different banks.

Initial Steps

After a loved one passes away, it is useful to contact a solicitor to discuss the practicalities of administering an estate. If you would like information or advice about administering an estate, you can contact Brethertons on 01788 557722.

It is easy for people to forget that administering an estate really is as time-consuming as you would think – every bank has to be contacted, every share value ascertained, and valuations of any property must be obtained. If the Executors have an idea of what assets the deceased had, this makes it a lot quicker. If not then someone will need to try and go through paperwork in the house to find details of any asset holders.

Fortunately technology means that we can now also do electronic asset searches for deceased people, which act like a credit search and highlights the assets held on their credit report. This is fairly comprehensive but does not necessarily tell us every single asset.

Grant of Probate?

The grant of probate is a court order which confirms who has the authority to deal with the deceased’s estate. This is usually the Executors named in a Will, but it can become more complicated if someone passes away without a Will.

A grant of probate is not always needed. If you do need to obtain a grant of probate then this can take longer due to the Probate Registry’s issuing times. Currently (November 2021) the Probate Registry takes a minimum of 8 weeks to issue grants of probate.

If you need to pay inheritance tax or submit the longer, more complex tax form then it can take an additional 4 weeks for HMRC to confirm the position to the Probate Registry. The Probate Registry will not issue the grant of probate without confirmation that any tax due has been paid and inevitably this can cause further delays.

Post-Grant

After you receive the grant of probate, you will then need to contact every asset holder again to arrange transfer or withdrawal. There are often forms to complete and specific ID documents to provide.

If there is a house to sell then you are also dependent on a reasonable offer being received, and then the buyers and their conveyancer also co-operating to get the sale completed as quickly as possible.

Finalising the estate

This part of the process is dependent on how risk averse the Executors want to be. Executors have personal responsibility to pay the money or transfer the assets to the correct beneficiaries, and can be personally liable for any loss if they pay the wrong person. If the beneficiaries are all known to the Executors then they may not feel that they need to conduct additional searches. If not then there can be additional delays whilst obtaining ID, or even trying to trace missing beneficiaries.

If any tax needs to be paid during the estate administration then this will also have to be declared to HMRC and paid. As at November 2021, HMRC are facing significant backlogs and are currently taking at least 8 weeks to deal with tax queries, though we are finding that it often takes longer.

Based on the above, we usually advise Executors that an estate administration can take anywhere between 6-18 months to deal with on average.

This based on a solicitor dealing with the estate. If you are administering the estate yourself, and particularly if you are doing it in your spare time around work and other commitments, then it could take much longer. More complex estates, or delays such as failing to find a suitable buyer for a property, can also make the estate administration process take longer.

Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things that we will face. Here at Brethertons we can take care of the practical and legal side of things for you, leaving you to focus on the best way to remember your loved one.

Many people choose to instruct a solicitor to do the day-to-day work of administering an estate as it can make the process slightly quicker due to the knowledge and experience that they have.

Brethertons offers a variety of services where we can help as much or as little as you like. For more information, call 01788 557722 to book an appointment with one of our expert solicitors.