Step 2: Applying for Probate – How long does it take?
The second step in the probate process is Applying for Grant of Probate (if there is a Will) or Letters of Administration (if there is no Will). This is a legal document that gives the executor (the person responsible for administering the estate) the authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets.
At the time of writing (Jan 24) the Probate Registry, the body responsible for issuing probate, is experiencing long delays. If you look at the probate section the Government’s website it will indicate that you can expect your application to be processed within 16 weeks from the date the probate application is submitted. However, the reality for some is somewhat different. A Justice Committee has recently launched new inquiry into probate delays and they state, “The waiting time for probate almost doubled from April 2022 to April 2023, with reports citing cases of probate taking more than eleven months and practitioners advising clients that probate will take at least nine months.”
How Long Does Probate Take is a difficult question to answer because the probate delays are unpredictable with some applications being processed in a couple of weeks and others taking over a year.
You may want to read:
An Overview of Probate Forms
Probate and Inheritance Tax
How to Apply for Probate
Hiring a Probate Professional can Speed up the Process
Another factor that has a strong impact on the probate application timeline is mistakes which is why using a probate professional is highly recommended. Mistakes caused delays in a functional system but with the Probate Registry’s current problems, mistakes cause long delays which is frustrating for both executors and beneficiaries. Many probate professionals also have access to a government portal which is only accessible to approved professionals which can help to speed up the application process.
Step 3: Estate Administration
Once the grant of probate has been received, the executor can begin the process of estate administration. This involves gathering all of the assets, paying any outstanding debts, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are either named in the Will or are decided by the rules of intestacy.
The length of time it takes to complete estate administration can vary greatly depending on the complexity of the estate. If there are only a few assets and debts, then it may only take a few months. However, if there are multiple assets, debts, or disputes, then it can take much longer.
Factors That Can Affect How Long Probate Takes
There are several factors that can affect the probate timeline in the UK. These include:
- The complexity of the estate: If the estate is straightforward with only a few assets and debts, then probate can be completed relatively quickly. However, if there are multiple assets, debts, or disputes, then it can take much longer.
- The efficiency of the executor: The executor is responsible for administering the estate and ensuring that all of the necessary tasks are completed. If the executor is efficient and organised, then the probate process can be completed more quickly. This is why many people instruct a probate practitioner to help with the process. Their experience and knowledge ensures that the process is completed efficiently and all the correct procedures are followed.
- The size of the estate: The larger the estate, the longer it can take to complete probate. This is because there may be more assets to gather, more debts to pay and more beneficiaries to distribute assets to.
- Inheritance tax: If the estate is subject to inheritance tax, then this can add extra time to the probate process. The executor will need to complete an inheritance tax form and pay any tax owed, before the grant of probate can be issued. Raising the finance to pay inheritance tax can be problematic especially if money from the estate is tied up in property and investments which cannot be sold or cashed in until the grant of probate or letters of administration are issued. There are probate loans and probate finance options, including loans specifically for inheritance tax, which may help to resolve the issue.
- Disputes: Whether it’s a dispute between executors, beneficiaries or both it can have a big impact on the probate timeline especially if a probate caveat has been issued.
Tips for Speeding Up the Probate Process
While there is no way to guarantee a specific timeline for probate, there are some steps you can take to help speed up the process. These include:
Hire a Probate Practitioner
One of the best ways to speed up the probate process is to hire a probate specialist. They have experience in handling probate cases and can help guide you through the process. They can also handle many of the tasks involved in probate, such as completing the probate application form and inheritance tax form, which can save you time and stress.
Keep Detailed Records
It’s important to keep detailed records of all of the assets, debts, and beneficiaries involved in the estate. This will help ensure that nothing is missed and can help speed up the process. It’s also a good idea to keep a record of any communication with banks, creditors, and other parties involved in the estate.
Communicate with Beneficiaries
Keeping beneficiaries informed about the progress of probate can help prevent delays. If beneficiaries are aware of what is happening, they are less likely to raise disputes or cause delays in the process.
Being organised is key to a smooth and efficient probate process. Keep all of the necessary documents in one place and make sure they are easily accessible. This will save you time and stress when it comes to completing the probate application form and inheritance tax form.
Understand the Process
Applying for Probate can be complex and confusing and making mistakes can be costly to both executors and beneficiaries so it’s crucial that you follow the correct processes to avoid future problems with HMRC and to avoid creating a situation of contentious probate. This site is full of free resources to help including the option to request a free consultation with a probate specialist.