How long does Probate take?
There is no set time limit for how long it takes an estate to go through probate. There is also no time limit for when the estate administration must be completed. In most cases it takes months not weeks. Estate administration can be a complicated process and sometimes unpredictable. There are many factors that can cause probate to be delayed. This makes it impossible to give a definitive answer to how long does probate take.
We can make some estimations about how long probate will take to be granted. As well as when the administration will be completed. This can be done by separating the process into 3 parts. The first part is the preparation of the applications. The second part is the processing of application by the probate office and HMRC. The last part is once probate has been granted. This Section includes the collection and distribution of the assets.
How long does it take to apply for probate?
How long it takes for the application to be prepared is dependent on the applicant’s access to information about the estate. The applicant is often reliant on other people or institutions to provide information in a timely and efficient manner. Information collected in this stage is used to establish the estates value. It is also used to calculate the estates Inheritance Tax Liability. Therefore it is important that all of the necessary information is available before making an application. This can involve waiting for statements from various financial institutions. As well as obtaining valuations for property and other assets.
A probate application can be made in a matter of days if the deceased kept clear and tidy records of their financial affairs, held assets with only a few institutions and the estates value is below their inheritance tax threshold.
In cases where the deceased held several assets, with several Institutions or kept messy accounts it will take longer to gather all the information required to complete the probate application. The more institutions involved the more reliant the applicant is on everybody providing information in a timely manner, which is not always the case. Gathering all the information required to complete the application forms can take a couple of weeks.
Applications for estates where Inheritance Tax is payable will also take longer to prepare. It is necessary to obtain professional valuations for the assets and to calculate the correct amount of inheritance tax. This process can take a couple weeks to complete before an application can be made.
Along with external factors that can delay the probate application, the time it takes to deal with probate is heavily dependent on the executors willingness and capability to apply. A reluctant or overwhelmed executor may take much longer to go through probate. This could be because they are putting it off and burying their head in the sand. Alternatively it could be because they are not sure about the probate process and the correct procedures. Either way, this can add weeks and sometimes months to the probate application process.
Cases where it is impossible to give any time indication is if unexpected complications arise. For example, liabilities against the estate, the discovery of previously unknown assets or disagreements and disputes.
How long does it take for probate to be granted after sending the application?
Unlike the administration aspect of probate, the probate office does provide a bit more structure to the process. Although once your application has been lodge with the probate office there is little you can do to speed up the processing of your application.
The average time it takes for the probate office to reach your application can vary. This is dependent on the time of year, how busy the registry is and how many staff they have. There is no set time limit for the probate office to process your application.
We are able to get an indication of how long it will take using timescales from previous applications. These timescales are different for non-taxable estates, taxable estates and urgent situations. (For example for court cases.)
• Applications for a non-taxable estate can be with the probate office for around 2-8 weeks. This is an estate where no inheritance tax is payable because the estates value is below the deceased’s inheritance tax allowance.
• Applications for a taxable estate can take around 10-12 weeks. This is an estate where inheritance tax is payable because the estates value is above the deceased’s inheritance tax allowance. Taxable estates take longer to be processed as they are reviewed by HMRC to check the correct amount of tax is being paid. If HMRC believe there is an inaccuracy in the values or the calculations they will query the application. In the some cases this can take weeks to resolve.
• Applications for urgent situations can be processed in around 2 weeks. Urgent situations are mostly restricted to court cases. There are sometimes other situations where the process can be expedited. How long it takes for the application to be processed is also dependent on the accuracy of the person making the application. Applications that have a lot of errors will take longer to be approved. Inaccuracies can require a lot of back and forth between the applicant and probate office until all the details are correct. In some cases an entirely new application may be requested.
After swearing the Oath when will I receive a grant of Probate?
If you have sworn the oath at your local probate registry you should receive the grant of probate or letters of administration within 10 days of your appointment.
If you have sworn the oath at a Commissioner of Oaths (usually a local solicitors office) you will receive your grant within 10 days of the probate registry receiving your oath.
How long does an executor have to execute the Will?
An executor has a minimum of a year in which to distribute the estates assets to the beneficiaries. It is not uncommon for probate to take up to a year or longer. Although a lot of estates can be completed in less time than that, often between 6 to 9 months.
If an executor is not a professional they are having to administer the estate whilst still managing their day to day lives. Applying for probate can take a lot of time and energy. Finding the time to complete the application can be difficult. This can have a noticeable effect on the probate application timescale. A beneficiary should allow the executor a year to sort out probate and the estates assets before pursuing their inheritance.
Once probate is granted, when can the estate be distributed to the beneficiaries?
Once the executor has a grant of probate they can collect the estates assets relatively quickly. After which it can be distributed to the beneficiaries. How long until the estate is distributed is dependent on a few factors. For example, allowing for claims from potential liabilities against the estate or liquidating property.
It is standard practice for solicitors to post an advertisement in The London Gazette. This advertisement allows any potential debtors a period of 2 months to come forward to claim what they are owed. This protects the executor from future liability if a debtor was to come forward at a later date. A notice can be placed before obtaining probate. However, the estate should not be distributed to any beneficiaries until this 2 month period has passed. This allows for any claims that have been raised to be settled.
Another factor which will delay distribution is if the estate needs to be liquidated, this most commonly applies to property. Money from the sale of a property cannot be distributed until the property has been sold. Just as with any conveyancing transaction the time it takes to find a buyer and complete a sale is indeterminable. This doesn’t mean that the estates liquid assets cannot be distributed. Although it would be wise to keep behind some liquid assets to pay for future costs involving the property.