If someone dies with significant assets, then it’s likely that probate will be required to deal with the estate. Probate can be a long and complicated process but not only that, it can be mentally exhausting too.
That leads many to wonder, is there a time limit for probate? That’s what we’ll find out here as we’ll look at any potential time limit and the advantages of a quick probate. Let’s take a look.
Is There a Time Limit for Probate?
No, there is no legal time limit for probate. This can be welcome news to those who still need to process the fact that their loved one is no longer with them anymore. The process allows you to take your time and start the process when you feel ready.
While that is true, there are some significant advantages to completing the process quickly. There is also the matter of paying inheritance tax, which does have a time limit, which we explain in more detail below.
However, before worrying about the process, it’s important to check whether probate is even required. For example, if they had less than £20,000 in savings and didn’t have any other assets, probate often won’t be required.
Another scenario is if they have £100,000 in a joint account with their spouse and a jointly owned property. In this case, probate wouldn’t be required either, as these assets would automatically pass to the spouse.
If you’re stressed by the potential of probate, first check if it’s needed at all.
Advantages To Carrying Out Probate Quickly
While there are no legal time limits for probate, it’s always advisable to get it started as quickly as you can. By this, we don’t mean the first few days after the death, but getting the ball rolling sooner rather than later can help in several ways.
One of the significant advantages of starting the application quickly is that it helps to reduce stress and uncertainty. Not starting probate can feel like a cloud hanging over you. While the process can be complicated, there is plenty of help available and you can even entrust others to oversee the more complex parts of the process.
From personal experience, I also found that going through probate helped to keep my mind occupied and focused on the task at hand. In many ways, it can be a distraction from the emotion of your loss.
There are also the beneficiaries to consider. Firstly, starting the process can ensure they have their inheritance sooner, along with the assurance that the estate is settled. Secondly, quick probate can prevent any legal disputes against the will.
Finally, if there are any outstanding debts or taxes to be paid, then probate can help to get these cleared up.
When Must Inheritance Tax Be Paid?
While there is no time limit for probate itself, there is a de facto time limit if inheritance tax would need to be paid. When selling an inherited house, inheritance tax is only payable on estates that are valued at more than £325,000, which includes any property.
The most vital piece of information to know is that inheritance tax needs to be paid within the first six months following the death. Working out exactly how much inheritance tax is due can be difficult and it can be wise to get legal help during this period.
Probate can only be granted once inheritance tax has been paid. This tax has a basic rate of 40% and you’ll need to calculate the complete value of the estate. As we mentioned, this includes property but also the likes of personal possessions, savings, and shares.
If you have been able to avoid inheritance tax, perhaps because there is none you are required to pay, then you can leave the probate process for as long as you want.
How Long Does Probate Take in the UK?
This is a difficult question to answer as it can vary significantly from one case to the next. A lot will depend on how complex the estate is.
For most people, the process will take a couple of months. However, the most complex of cases can take over a year. This is another reason why it’s best to apply for your grant of probate quickly, because the process can take so long.
Once probate has been granted, then the executor/administrator will need to value all of the assets, pay debts/taxes, and distribute the assets in accordance with the will or via the rules of intestacy.
This can be simple or time-consuming, depending on the complexity of the case. Added to this, there is also the possibility of someone challenging the will, which can further delay the process.
While there is no legal time limit for probate in the UK, it’s best to complete it as soon as possible due to all the reasons we mentioned above. If you feel a little daunted by the process, there is plenty of legal help available which can guide you through the process.