How Long Does Probate Take Once Submitted UK?

How Long Does Probate Take Once Submitted UK?

The answer to the questions is around 8-12 weeks, at time of writing (when done on line, paper applications take longer) BUT it’s important to understand that obtaining probate DOES NOT mean finalising administration of a dead person’s estate (which may take 9-12 months).

What Does the Probate Process Entail?

Probate describes the authority, granted by the courts, to executors to carry to the instructions of a will. It must be obtained before the job of managing and distributing assets can even begin. The entire process (of which obtaining probate is a part) is called estate administration. Estate administration involves the following steps:

  1. Identification of all of the deceased’s assets and liabilities, so as to determine the estate’s value. In addition to this, those named in the will must be identified and located. If there is no will, this process will involve the court of administration and the rules of intestacy.
  2. Once the assets have been valued, any inheritance tax payable must be calculated and transferred to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Only after this can a grant of probate be issued allowing executors to proceed with core duties.
  3. Once the grant of probate is in place. Asset liquidation, settling of debts, payment of estate administration fees and resolution of any outstanding inheritance, income or capital gains tax must take place.
  4. Full detailed accounts for all payments into and out of the estate, should then be prepared in order to support distribution of the estate. These accounts set out the assets available for distribution and must be approved/signed off by executors.
  5. Finally (and providing there are no challenges – which is by no means certain), the transfer of assets to beneficiaries may take place.
    Whilst steps 1 & 2 may take only 8 weeks, the entire process may easily extend to a year. The law recognises this, you may have encountered the term an ‘executor’s year’, which describes the first year after death, during which executors are protected from attack from beneficiaries for delays to distribution.

What can you do to make probate quicker?

There are preparatory steps one can take, largely aimed at anticipating bottlenecks. Examples include:

1. Accurately determining inheritance tax liability. If the HMRC require further detail, this may introduce delay. Moreover, certain forms can be avoided if the estate is below the threshold for such tax.

2. For completeness – something you can’t ‘do’ is influence how busy the probate registry is. Applications are signed off by panel and Covid has driven waiting times up from 2-4 weeks to 8-12 weeks. Following up at this stage has no effect on processing speed.

3. Use a professional. They will charge but will usually have systems in place to minimise errors (a common cause of delay). DIY applications are known to take longer.

What external stumbling blocks can cause delays?

A will may be invalidated if e.g. improperly singed. Other elements which might lead to invalidation of a will include, lack of mental capacity at time of making the will, coercion etc. such factors require evidencing and may involve legal challenge to the will, delaying proceedings.

Payment of inheritance tax. Inevitably where tax calculations are involved delays arise, simply by virtue of additional administrative work.

Executor not appointed by the will. If there is no party named to lead administration of the will, an administrator must be appointed by the courts, adding delay. Similar problems may arise if an executor is unaware of their appointment or hard to locate.

Difficult beneficiaries and challenges to the will. Even if a challenge to the will doesn’t take the form of legal action it
may soak up money and time as executors address issues. Mean costs associated with processing a challenge to a will
amount to £20,000 EVEN IF THE MATTER DOESN’T REACH COURT.

Conclusion

Executors are liable for errors made during administration of an estate, moreover, conflict around wills may be explosive and executors may find themselves a lightning rod for this. Use a professional unless you are very confident, it is not only quicker, but brings an impartial and informed third party into proceedings.

Confidence Wills will always talk you through options regarding probate, this is something we do a great deal for our clients. If you have questions or would like to talk through any element of the process, visit the website and get in touch (www.confidencewills.co.uk) or email info@confidencewills.co.uk. You may find this very helpful.