The process of dealing with probate can be a complicated and saddening time. You are most likely dealing with the loss of a loved one while trying to settle their affairs. The process can be difficult, and it leads many to wonder whether or not you can track a probate application in the UK.
Here we’re going to look at that question in detail while also looking at how long it takes and what happens when probate is granted. By the end, you’ll have all the information you need. But, first, let’s get started by looking at exactly what a probate application is.
What is a Probate Application?
An application to probate is where you apply to deal with someone’s estate once they have passed away. If there is a will, the executor’s named can apply for probate. With no probate, the deceased’s closest living relative will need to apply. This is usually their spouse, or children.
To start the application, you need to either fill out an online or paper form with all the relevant details. This include a valuation of their estate. You’ll also need to complete tax forms and register the death.
Once you’ve sent the application, you’ll need to wait for it to be granted. Once it is, you can then start settling the estate in accordance with the will, or the law.
Can You Track a Probate Application in the UK?
This depends on how you applied for probate. Traditionally you just needed to wait for the courts to get back to you. However, with the Government’s MyHMCTS service, you are able to track your application and see if there are any issues.
Once you have gone through the application period, you can see the ‘Status’ next to your case. You can then click into the case and see its ‘Event History’. This is where you can track its progress in detail and see any further information related to the case.
For example, you may see the status as ‘Stopped’ if the case worker requires legal advice. Other common statuses include ‘Awaiting documentation’, ‘Examining’ and ‘Ready to issue’. Hopefully sooner rather than later, you’ll see ‘Grant issued’.
Only those that applied for probate can have access to this information. Any other potential beneficiaries would need to wait until it has been granted. Once it has, it will be searchable on the Government’s website, and you can get a copy for a small fee.
How Long Does the Probate Application Take?
The answer to this question can vary considerably based on several factors. From the application being sent to probate being granted takes, on average, eight weeks, but this can be more or less depending on the complexity of the case.
For example, if there are minimal assets available and no inheritance tax is payable, then it’s likely to be straightforward. In contrast, a complex case where additional documentation is required, or if there is a challenge against probate, will take much longer.
The current government guidance details that you’ll get the grant of probate or letters of administration within a 16-week period. For many people, they will get it much sooner but for others, it may be more than 16 weeks.
It’s important to note that the application period may not even be the longest part of the process. You have the initial phase of obtaining documents, valuations, and paying taxes even before you apply. Then once your application has been granted, dealing with the estate can take time.
Due to all these factors, the whole process can sometimes take over a year. In most cases, however, probate can be settled within six months.
What Happens After Probate Has Been Granted?
Once probate has been granted, what are the next steps? Now it’s time to settle the estate. Sometimes doing this is simple if all you need to do is distribute bank account funds. However, if there are assets such as property, stocks, or shares, it can be more complicated.
The first step is settling any debts or taxes of the deceased. This can be as little as settling an unpaid phone bill but can include the likes of credit card debt. It’s a common myth that debts die with someone. That only happens when they don’t have an estate and their partner isn’t liable.
This stage can be made more complicated if they were self-employed or owned a business. This is because you may need to complete a Self-Assessment, pay any taxes, or potentially apply for a tax refund.
Now you’ll need to sell assets, which can be equally complicated. For example, if they were a landlord when you made need to deal with a tenant’s contract and rental income. If they had a business, calculating dividends and profits due can also be tough.
If there has been income from the estate following the death, then you’ll need to report this to the HMRC and potentially pay tax on it.
Finally, once everything is calculated and everything has been paid, you can settle the estate according to the will. With no will, there are strict rules on who the beneficiaries would be. You then prepare the final estate accounts, and the process will be completed.
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