The process of probate is time-consuming and stressful. It takes around six months to a year for the average probate process to finish.
Probate starts from the date of death to the distribution of the estate. This is a rough estimate, but even a basic estate will take six months because of the number of steps involved.
To give you a deeper insight into probate, we have created the following guide to help you understand what to expect during this difficult time.
Probate is the name given to the legal process of reviewing a will. Once probate has finished, the authenticity of the will is approved, essentially giving the legal right to deal with a deceased person’s estate.
The probate process itself takes between six to twelve months, and may take longer the more complicated it is. There is a lot to consider, and the tax authority can take around four months to process inheritance tax and capital gains tax alone.
Regular communication can help to speed the process up a little, but paying inheritance tax as and when it is due will ensure there are fewer delays.
The person responsible for carrying out each stage of probate is the executor. They are usually named by the deceased person and are often their spouse or a son or daughter, although not exclusively. The deceased person can name up to four people as executors of their will.
If they did not name anyone as an executor, the responsibility will usually be given to next of kin. This person is not always the best person to take on such a responsibility, which is why it is important to name someone and arrange your will.
Anyone can be appointed as executor, but sometimes it will be an unwanted responsibility. When this is the case, you can renunciate your responsibility through the courts.
The responsibilities of an executor includes paying debts associated with the deceased person by using funds from the estate, gathering the assets and distributing them to the beneficiaries.
The executor is also responsible for valuing the estate and liaising with solicitors working on their behalf (it is possible to pay them out of the proceeds of the estate, but only if the named beneficiaries approve). There are also funeral costs to consider and arrange, and inheritance tax to pay.
The process usually takes nine months on average but expect complicated probate to take up to twelve months. Some are settled in six months, but few before this.
With an organised will and a straightforward estate, six months is a reasonable time frame. If there is no will or there are disputes between beneficiaries, probate can take longer than twelve months.
You will usually need permission from the court to be the executor of a will. This is called applying for grant of probate. If there is no will, this is applying for grant of a letter of administration.
If the estate is small and straightforward, or there is less than £5,000 in bank accounts, then you do not need to get grant of probate. The same applies to joint estates where grant of probate is given to the survivor.
It takes around six to twelve months in total, although the grant of probate itself will be with the probate registry in under a month.
Even if there is no tax due, an inheritance tax return is still required to complete the probate steps. Although it is part of a separate form, it will be filed at the same time as applying for grant of probate.
Inheritance tax must be paid before grant of probate is issued and can be made up to six months after the end of the month in which the deceased person died. Inheritance tax can be paid in instalments.
Essentially, the costs of probate are split into two sections. The government must be paid a fixed fee, and then there are solicitors fees specific to their services and rates.
The fees change from time to time, but it costs £215 for a probate application made by an individual party and £155 if made by a probate solicitor.
Solicitor fees vary but usually cost 3-5% of the estate’s value. This means an estate of £250,000 will have solicitor fees of around £7,500 to £12,500.
The less complicated the probate, the less it is likely to cost. Solicitors still charge for their time so the more it is taken up by complications and delays, the more they are likely to charge. Solicitors can provide a quote based on the answers you provide on their dedicated probate form.
A beneficiary or unnamed beneficiary with a grievance may wish to protest the will as invalid or take issue with the way the probate is executed. When this is the case, they lodge their grievances with the probate registry which will prevent probate from being issued until their issue is resolved.
Their caveat can be renewed but will expire after six months if not resolved.
Contentious probate can be a difficult time for all involved as disputes over how the will is interpreted or being executed can cause arguments between loved ones, and slow the process down.
With nine months being the typical amount of time for probate to be settled, there are many steps for the executor to consider along the way:
- Register the death within five days in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and eight in Scotland.
- Inform beneficiaries that they are entitled to a share of the estate and relevant companies the deceased person had bills with to stop additional charges.
- Submit inheritance tax and grant of probate forms
- Pay inheritance tax – you may need to take out a loan as it is due before the assets of the estate are released
- Pay off the deceased person’s debt
- Claim life insurance (if applicable)
- Distribute the assets between beneficiaries
Click on this link for everything you need to know about probate.
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