After a loved one passes away, the thought of spending months waiting for Probate to be over can be frustrating, but these things take time. Just how much time Probate takes is a hazy area, but there are a few things that may affect the process and cause it to take a little longer.
The first job an Executor or Administrator does is to quantify all assets (property, cash, investments, stocks and shares, valuable items – cars, jewellery, paintings etc) and liabilities payable out of the Estate (mortgages, loans, utilities, funeral costs etc).
From this information the Executor/Administrator can establish if it will be necessary to apply for a Grant of Probate (Will) or Grant of Letters of Administration (no Will).
If the Estate is taxable, then inheritance tax needs to be paid before a Grant can be applied for. The tax return to be completed on a taxable estate is complex and valuations for property and valuable items such as antiques must accompany the return. It can take a couple of months to gather all the relevant values and evidence together before being able to complete the return for submission and payment of the tax. Only after the Revenue have issued a certificate to confirm that tax has been paid can the Executor apply for the Grant.
If there is no tax to pay, once the Estate has been quantified, it usually takes around 8 – 12 weeks from completing the application to the Probate Registry to the Grant being received.
From receipt of the Grant to distribution of the Estate will depend on the assets to be realised, for example, if there is a house to be sold the Estate cannot be finalised until the house has been sold.
All beneficiaries entitled to a share in the Estate will also need to be correctly identified, all liabilities paid and Estate Accounts prepared to show assets collected in and monies paid out before the final distribution can take place. A full administration can take between 6 to 12 months to complete – longer if there is a property to be sold.
If the deceased left behind property with leasehold, stocks and shares, or a number of different assets, the actual valuation could take a lot longer, pushing Probate back by weeks or even months.
In addition, if the will itself is complicated, say the amount is to be divided up a certain way, or the deceased left a charitable legacy, this again may take much longer to organise.
There are certain grounds on which a Will can be contested. For example, if a beneficiary feels there was a problem when the deceased made the Will i.e. they did not have capacity to do so, then they could challenge the Will. If a beneficiary doesn’t feel sufficient provision has been made for them, or they have been left out of the Will completely then they can challenge the Will.
If a beneficiary wants to bring a claim then they should seek the advice of an independent Solicitor as soon as possible – there are time limits in which a claim can be brought and bringing a claim can be costly.
If someone dies without leaving a Will – they have died intestate. Under the rules of intestacy it needs to be established who is entitled to administer the Estate and who the beneficiaries are. There are strict rules to deal with this relating to bloodline.
Family usually seek professional help with intestacy matters as the same rules apply to Administrators in that if they make a mistake, such as not identifying all who may be entitled to a share of the Estate, then they can be held personally liable.
It is important that an Executor understands the terms of the Will.
The provisions contained within a Will can be complicated and it is easy to make mistakes. An Executor should only contemplate dealing with the administration of an Estate personally, if they are confident they fully understand the Will and the correct procedure for administration, if in any doubt, seek professional help to save costly mistakes and sleepless nights!
If you want to find out more about how long Probate takes, or if you would like to get a quote from one of our expert Probate solicitors, call us on 0207 406 5875.
Ellie is a resident writer for Best Value Probate, covering topics such as Probate, wills and other legal proceedings.