Just how long does probate take?
May 2018. “How long does probate take?” Or, often, “How soon will I get my inheritance?” Dealing with the affairs of someone who has died sometimes takes a long time. Although it should not be the case, it is not unusual for it to take from two or three months or 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 both HMRC and the relevant Probate Registry are able to act quickly (i.e. not always!) And the information received from asset holders and liabilities is actually correct – it is amazing how many institutions give unreliable information which can have severe consequences for the executors who assume it is correct.
Should disputes unexpectedly pop out of the woodwork, how long probate takes can be a very different matter – and massively expensive if it goes to Court. Probate disputes can be disastrous if the assets have already been paid out and the proper precautions have not been taken.
Urgent cases – such as, where Inheritance Tax is involved.
For cases where professional help is needed, we can arrange a priority service to speed things through. This can be especially useful where Tax Penalties are looming because the family were not aware of the 6 month time limit for IHT returns and payment.
Back to the reason obtaining Probate takes so long:
Many organisations may be involved in the process, such as 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. Worse, they answer the exact question that the lay executor asks, knowing perfectly well the answer is not what is needed for the Court and Tax forms. A typical example might be a deposit account with little in it – say £5. What you might not find out is that a very large sum was taken out recently (which may well need to be included) and a large sum of interest is to be added but doesn’t yet show up. That could land the executor in trouble.
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. That alone can take months. You may have to get and check 7 years (sometimes 14 years) bank statements, tracking down many of the payments to make sure they were not gifts or loans. You are probably beginning to see some of the causes of delay!
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.
- Any overseas issues, especially if overseas grants are needed as well.
- 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 use cash or assets in the estate.
- Making sure that all HM Revenue & Customs files are closed and that 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 so probate being delayed. Professional advice is essential in these circumstances, not least so the family have someone to blame other than you!
So how long does Probate take? It could take as little as a couple of months. Most 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.
When will I get my Inheritance?
Once probate has been approved by the Probate Registry, there is a six month period during which the Will may still be disputed. It is possible to take some precautions against such disputes but they can be overturned by Judges in some circumstances.
The executors should also check the identity of the beneficiaries and that they are not bankrupt before paying out.
The assets of the estate cannot be cashed in until probate has been granted. In some cases that might involve (for example) a property being sold, then the bills being paid and finally the inheritances being paid out. So this particular piece of string can be relatively short – or very long! It all depends on the circumstances.
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How long does probate take?