Just how long does probate take?
It is hard to be specific when answering the question “how long does probate take?” Dealing with the affairs of someone who has died can take a long time. Although it should not be the case, it is not unusual for it to take up to a year, perhaps longer if things are not straightforward. On the other hand, it may take a month or so if the necessary information is readily available. (And correct – it is amazing how many institutions give incorrect information which can have severe consequences for the executors who assume it is correct.)
Many organisations may be involved in the process, for example, banks, building societies, insurance companies and HM Revenue & Customs. And some of them seem to go out of their way to make life difficult by not replying to letters, refusing to give essential information or just not answering the question they have been asked properly etc.
How long does probate take to be granted?
– When can the estate pass to the beneficiaries?
The estate cannot be dealt with until all claims to it have been received. Individuals have six months from the date when probate was granted to make claims against the estate. Which can be extremely dangerous for the executors. You can’t even apply for the formal grant until you have been able to find out the assets and liabilities of the estate, and that alone can take months. You may have to obtain and check 7 years bank statements, tracking down many of the payments to make sure they were not gifts or loans. You are probably beginning to see that the answer to “how long does probate take” is pretty variable!
Other things that may affect the time taken for probate are:
- whether the financial affairs of the person who died were in order and good records kept.
- What the person who died owned and where it is.
- Whether the person who died had an interest in a business or a farm.
- What the will or the rules of intestacy say.
- Whether there are any legal disputes (claims against the estate or claims by the estate).
- Whether inheritance tax needs to be paid (it has to be paid BEFORE a grant can be applied for, and before the executors can access cash or assets in the estate.
- Making sure that all HM Revenue & Customs files are closed and that matters relating to income tax, benefits agencies and pensions have been sorted out.
Arguments mean probate will take longer..
Arguments between family members, beneficiaries or personal representatives can also delay matters, sometimes by years. Any disagreements must be sorted out before the affairs of the person who died can be settled. We spend a lot of our time trying to avoid families falling out and consequently probate being delayed.
So how long does Probate take? It could take as little as a couple of months, and the vast majority of estates will be settled within a year, with most of the rest mostly taking between 3 and 9 months. But that is just a rule of thumb, and if the deceased had the great good sense to use our pre death planning service, things should not only go faster but at far lower cost. Wherever possible, we will try to make an early advance payment to beneficiaries in straightforward estates.
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How long does probate take?