How long will probate take?
Posted on 9th February 2021
We’re told that waiting times for grants of probate have now been reduced to around five weeks.
HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) says that the number of grants issued each week is now higher than the number of applications being received.
If you apply for probate online, an option that was introduced in November last year, you should only have to wait around four weeks. If there aren’t any errors or omissions in the application, it could even be handled in a week.
If you submit the paper forms instead, you should receive your grant within eight weeks.
However, this is just the beginning of the process of administering an estate on behalf of a friend or family member.
Why do I need probate?
The process of administering someone’s estate when they die requires a legal document. People often assume that probate isn’t needed if someone has left a Will, but in fact probate is based on the assets in their estate and who will inherit.
If someone has a valid Will when they die you will need a Grant of Probate for their estate. If they didn't have a Will you will need a Grant of Letters of Administration.
In either case one or more named people will be given legal authority to close bank accounts, sell property, settle debts and anything else that is needed to finalise the dead person’s affairs.
Probate when there is a Will
A legally valid Will confirms who should apply for probate (the executors) and the beneficiaries.
Once the Grant of Probate has been issued, the executors can deal with the estate. However, this can take some time, depending on whether property is owned in the UK or overseas and whether business interests are involved, for example.
Is probate faster with a Will?
Having a Will means that the people administering an estate are clear about someone’s wishes which can make sure things go smoothly. Executors will know the names of the beneficiaries and what they will inherit, so they can handle the process with confidence.
However, problems can arise if the Will can’t be found or if it isn’t clear that the executors have the latest and final version. If the Will itself isn’t clear and there’s uncertainty about someone’s intentions it could be invalid, meaning the probate process could take much longer.
If someone who expected to be provided for is excluded from a Will they might still be able to make a claim on the estate,
Things to consider during probate
If anything is incorrect or incomplete when you apply for probate obtaining the grant can be delayed. Administration of the estate can only be completed when outstanding Inheritance Tax has been paid to HM Revenue & Customs.
If the estate’s executor or administrator dies during the probate process, someone else will need to be appointed in their place, which can also lead to delays.
Sometimes it can be difficult to find beneficiaries if names or addresses aren’t accurate or complete. Enquiries and searches might be needed to confirm that the right person receives the inheritance.
If there are foreign assets it can be quite complicated to obtain authorisation to sell or transfer them, working with lawyers in another country.
Many of the things that can delay the probate process can be avoided with a well drafted Will. If you would like some advice, please get in touch.
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