Probate Delays: A Guide for Executors

probate solicitor bedfordshire hertfordshire buckinghamshire leighton buzzardBefore a deceased person’s estate can be administered by the executor(s) named in the Will (or the administrators if the person died intestate), a document known as a Grant of Probate or Grant of Representation  needs to be issued by the court to confirm that they are entitled to do so. A commonly held view is that obtaining Probate is a lengthy process, but once the application is ready to submit, it usually only takes around 7-10 days for the Grant to be issued.

Whilst processing the Probate application is pretty quick, the process of administering an estate can be lengthy and there are several hoops that need to be jumped through along the way.

Before you can apply

  • All of the assets owned by the deceased must be valued, including bank accounts, investments, pensions, property, personal effects, cars and anything else they might own. Any debts such as mortgage or credit cards must also be valued so that this can be taken off the final figure.
  • Inheritance tax needs dealing with. If the value of the assets is above the personal inheritance tax threshold of £325,000 and you can’t make use of the spousal exemption or transferable nil rate to reduce the liability, then inheritance tax will need to be paid before the Grant can be issued. See this article to counteract the Catch-22 situation of having to pay the tax before you have access to the deceased’s bank accounts.
  • Place statutory notices. It is recommended that you place adverts in the London Gazette and local newspapers to seek any unknown beneficiaries or creditors. This protects you from having people coming back to you in the future demanding payment. These notices require a minimum of eight weeks to allow  any creditors or unknown beneficiaries to come forward so can delay proceedings quite a bit but they allow you to distribute the funds without liability.

After the Grant is issued (and following the taking of an Oath)

  • It can take several months to collect the assets in from the various banks, building societies and investment accounts. If a property has to be sold then this can obviously take longer.
  • A self-assessment tax return may need to be filed if there is a high level of income paid by the estate, or perhaps capital gains to declare and getting final clearance by HMRC can take several weeks or months.
  • Distribution to beneficiaries is usually quick and straightforward, but there may be delays if individuals need to be traced, or if it’s not clear who the beneficiaries are (e.g. a gift to ‘all my grandchildren’ without specifying how many there are).
  • Disputed estates or family disputes can cause major delays until matters are resolved.

If you need any help with the process of obtaining Probate or administering an estate as executor – or you simply have questions, please do get in touch and we can book in a free 30 minute consultation.

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