How long does probate take in the UK?

How long does probate take in the UK?

Probate takes typically between six and twelve months; however, many factors can impact the timeline.

What is Probate?

Probate is the process of arranging and distributing a deceased person’s estate. This includes dealing with all their assets and their wishes. If they have a valid Will, then it will be taken into account. Using a professional Will writing service is the best way to ensure the validity is not disputed.

Who is the executor?

When a Will is written, an executor is specified and they (it could be multiple people) are responsible for the administration of the estate. The executor is responsible for handling Probate. An executor could be a family member, a close friend or a legal representative; the executor can be a beneficiary of the Will.

How quickly does the executor have to start the probate proceedings?

There is no set time limit to start probate; it could be the case that the family need time to grieve. It is important to be aware that an executor is acting on behalf of the beneficiaries so they must have their best interests in mind. If they think the executor is delaying the process unreasonably, they can ask for them to be replaced.

How does the probate process work?

There are six main stages of probate:

1. Registering the death and preserving the estate

The death must be registered with the UK authorities within five days. The Executors or personal representatives must ensure the assets are maintained and insured. At this point, the Will needs to be located; and it may be necessary to check the document’s validity by contacting a probate solicitor.

2. Valuing the estate

A detailed inventory of all the assets and liabilities of the estate need to be collated. This could include any property, personal belongings, jewellery, stocks, shares, artwork, life insurance and debts.

3. Preparing and paying the Inheritance tax

Once the estate’s value has been established the Inheritance tax (IHT) forms must be prepared. The inheritance threshold is currently £325,000 for the entire estate. If the value of the estate is under this amount, an IHT205 form still needs to be completed. There may be some cases where a loan is required, or it can be paid in instalments.

4. Applying for the grant of probate

The grant is the legal document that confirms the personal representative’s (executors) rights to deal with the deceased’s assets. An oath must be sworn to confirm all information given is to the best of their knowledge; this can be done at the local probate office or with a commissioner for oaths. If no Will is in place then a letter of administration will be given instead of a grant of probate. A Grant of probate is a public document, and anyone can request a copy.

5. Inform interested parties

Once the executor has received the grant of probate, then all interested parties must be informed. The grant of probate can be sent to the asset holders to release any funds. A notice should be placed in The Gazette and the local press to identify any beneficiaries.

6. Gathering assets and distributing the estate

All outstanding debts will need to be settled, and then there is a set order of priority for how the estate is distributed. Any Funeral expenses outstanding
Any taxes that are due
Outstanding debt such as mortgages and loans
If a Will is in place, the beneficiaries receive their parts of the estate. If there is no Will, then the estate is distributed according to the Rules of Intestacy.

How long does each stage take?

The first three stages usually take four to ten weeks, depending on how complex the estate is. This part of the process involves

–       Sourcing the Will and death certificate
–       Finding out what they have in the bank
–       Valuing their property
–       Working out how much tax they owe and any other outstanding debts

The lengthy part of this stage is reporting the estate value to HMRC to calculate if and how much tax is due.  Inheritance tax must be paid within six months, or financial penalties can be incurred. The application for the grant of probate cannot be started until it is paid.

The grant of probate stage takes typically six to eight weeks for application. The probate registration then takes three to six weeks.

The final stages of administering the account can take six to nine months as this may include

–       Selling any Property
–       Paying off any debts and taxes
–       Paying for funeral costs
–       Distributing money and assets to beneficiaries

The easiest way to distribute between multiple beneficiaries is for the executor to set up a bank account and all assets pooled in one place. They then can be distributed as per the deceased’s wishes. This account can then be closed after the estate has been settled.

How much does the probate process cost in the UK?

In most instances, probate normally cost between 1,000 and £5,000, although this could be a lot more with larger estates. Different probate solicitors charge in different ways; some are fixed fee, some will take a percentage and some an hourly rate.

The best way to ensure probate is quick and easy for your loved ones is to have the correct documentation in place. Ensure you have a valid Will, make a note of all your assets, set up powers of attorney and select a person to be your executor. The main delays in probate come due to poorly drafted or DIY Wills. If the Will is unclear, incomplete or invalid then this can cause disagreements among beneficiaries.

At Sovereign Planning, we can help you with all of this. Just contact us directly and we can answer any questions you may have.

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