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How Long Does Probate Take?

There are different steps to the probate process and how long probate takes depends on the length of time to complete each step. In summary the steps are:

  1. Collate the documents, facts and figures to apply for probate (or to establish if probate is required). Our Probate Checklist provides a list of documents you may require.
  2. Make the Probate Application to the Probate Registry by submitting the relevant probate forms and pay any inheritance tax owing.
  3. Once Probate is granted, the estate will need to be administrated.

Step 1: Preparing the Application for Grant of Probate / Letters of Administration

The application for a grant of probate involves filling out a probate application form and submitting it to the Probate Registry. The form requires details about the deceased person’s assets, debts and beneficiaries. It also requires an inheritance tax form to be completed. Depending on the size and complexity of the estate this process can take some time. It’s important to get the probate valuation as accurate as possible as this is how the inheritance tax payable is calculated. Inaccurate valuations can cause problems further down the line, so it’s important to be thorough especially when you consider that executors or administrators can be held personally liable for mistakes.

You may want to read: The Probate Checklist

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.

Be Organised

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 resources to help including the option to request a consultation with a probate specialist.

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