Probate can seem like a complicated and at times confusing process, particularly if it’s the first time you’ve encountered it. It is in most cases a relatively straightforward process that will be concluded within a year. However, there are a number of different factors that can alter the equation.
Here we’ll take a look at probate, how long it takes on average, what’s involved and how delays might occur.
How long does probate take on average?
In most instances, probate will take between six to twelve months. However, there are a range of factors that can impact on how long this process takes. This means that without detailed knowledge of a particular case it’s very difficult to ascribe a time scale. In most cases, probate will be resolved within a year, but be prepared for it to take longer in cases that are not straightforward.
What are the processes involved in probate?
Probate begins by registering the death. You will need the deceased’s death certificate for each of the deceased’s assets. This needs to take place within 5 days in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and within 8 days in Scotland.
You should then find out if there’s a will. The executor of the will need to apply for a document known as a grant. This gives them the right to access funds, sort out finances and distribute any remaining equity. They will also be responsible for paying any inheritance tax.
The next stage is to submit an application for probate. This can be done online or via a paper form. A probate fee, which currently stands at £215, is payable at this stage. If you complete the online application you will need to forward the will and any supporting documents independently.
Next, accounts for the deceased will need to be closed, memberships and subscriptions cancelled. Any debts will need to be paid off, outstanding debts settled before any remaining assets can be divided. If there isn’t a will, assets will be divided under what’s known as the ‘rules of intestacy’.
What might delay the probate process?
After someone dies, a probate application can sometimes be made in days if the deceased kept clear and tidy records of all their financial affairs. This is particularly the case where those affairs were relatively simple and the deceased only held assets with a small number of different institutions and the overall value of the estate was below the inheritance tax threshold.
If the deceased had a range of assets with numerous institutions or their financial affairs were disorganised, it can take considerably longer to gather all the information required to complete the application.
Any applications for estates where Inheritance Tax needs to be paid will take longer to prepare. It may be necessary to obtain professional valuations for any assets to help calculate the amount of inheritance tax that will need to be paid. This process can take a number of weeks to complete.
The speed at which an executor applies can also be a factor in the length of time. If an executor is unsure about the process, overwhelmed or is reluctant to apply for some other reason, this can lead to delays which on occasion can be significant.
Complications can and do arise, such as liabilities against the estate, locating previously unknown assets or the all too common disagreements and disputes about the content of a will. Often wills are inadequate, unclear or confusing. Homemade and DIY wills are a case in point, with many of them commonly causing these types of issues.
If there is a property to sell this can take time, with time on the market and delays through conveyancing all adding time to the overall probate process. Sales can fall through, or other hold ups in the process can all add up to significant delays.
In some instances, the executor may fall seriously ill or die during the probate process, particularly if the executor is an elderly partner of the deceased. Someone else will then need to be appointed to replace them. If an executor dies, then usually their own executor will fulfill that role.
Sometimes finding beneficiaries isn’t straightforward. If they can’t be easily located and informed, then investigations may need to be made. In some cases it can take a considerable amount of time to find any beneficiary.
Another consideration is the impact that third parties can have on the whole process. The larger the estate with more institutions and assets involved, the greater the potential for delay. If for instance, the estate contained foreign assets it may take some time to gain authorisation for their sale or transfer. If any of the deceased’s assets are held in a trust then the administration of these trusts will add time to the probate process.
Wills and probate services from Mark Reynold Solicitors
Mark Reynolds Solicitors can help you draw up a will to aid the probate process when you die. We can also provide confidential support and advice regarding the probate process.
To speak to one of our Wills & Probate solicitors in our offices situated in Warrington, Runcorn, Liverpool or Leigh, please call us on 0800 002 9577 for immediate assistance. Alternatively, contact us here.