How Long Does A Grant Of Probate Take?
The term ‘probate’ refers to the process through which a person’s estate is administered following their death. Those appointed as executors by the deceased under their Will must ensure that all of the estate’s debts and liabilities are cleared before distributing the estate in accordance with the deceased’s wishes. Executors usually require a Grant of Probate issued by the Court to enable them to execute their duties. Our experienced probate solicitors have assisted many executors in obtaining the requisite Grant of Probate and carrying out their obligations. One of the questions most commonly asked by clients is, ‘How long does a Grant of Probate take’?
As with many legal matters, the answer depends largely on the circumstances of the individual case and the Court’s capacity. On average, it currently takes around 8 weeks where the case is suitable for an online application, for the Court to issue a Grant of Probate. That can change, however, and our probate solicitors will be able to provide a likely timeframe once they have reviewed the documentation and ascertained the Court’s availability.
What Is A Grant Of Probate?
A Grant of Probate is a document issued by the Court, confirming that the executors are legally entitled to deal with the deceased person’s estate. Strictly speaking, the executors derive their power from the Will itself, and there are some circumstances in which a Grant of Probate may not be required. Those circumstances are, however, fairly narrow. They include where the deceased owned all of their assets jointly, or the estate is particularly small and straightforward. In most cases, a Grant of Probate is required. The executors cannot deal with the estate’s property without a Grant – by selling the deceased’s home, for example – and financial institutions require proof of the Grant of Probate before releasing funds held in accounts over a specified limit set by the individual bank or building society. Further, the Court will not agree to any Order sought by the executors until a Grant of Probate has been obtained.
How Long Does The Probate Process Take?
Every estate is different, so the time it takes to deal with your loved one’s estate will depend on the circumstances. On average, it takes between 9 and 12 months for the executors to obtain a Grant of Probate and to finalise the estate administration in accordance with the terms of the Will.
Before applying for a Grant of Probate, you must undertake a significant amount of preparatory work. You need to review all of the estate’s assets and liabilities to ascertain the approximate value of the estate. This can involve obtaining professional valuations of the estate’s properties and writing to the relevant banks or building societies to establish the balance in the deceased’s accounts. You must also determine the extent of any inheritance tax liability and submit the relevant forms to HMRC.
It is usually possible to apply for a Grant of Probate online. A paper application is required in some circumstances and can take considerably longer to be granted than those submitted online. Online applications are relatively straightforward, but the information provided must be comprehensive and accurate. If it is not, the application may be stopped. Some of the most common reasons for the Court stopping a probate application include missing supporting documentation, the application being submitted too soon after sending the information regarding the inheritance tax position to HMRC, and a query relating to the condition of the Will.
If an online application is accepted on its first attempt, statistics released by the Family Court show that from October-December 2022, Grants of Probate were, on average, issued approximately 8 weeks after being submitted.
How Long Does Probate Take If There Is No Will?
If the deceased person did not leave a will, they are classed as having died ‘intestate’. Since there is no formal record of the deceased’s wishes, inheritance laws dictate how the estate should be distributed and who should be tasked with doing so.
Those responsible for administering the estate where there is no will are referred to as ‘administrators’. The deceased person’s spouse or civil partner will be the first port of call to act as administrator, followed by their children, grandchildren and other family members. Since there is no Will, administrators do not derive their power from the deceased person but from the Court. The document through which they derive their power is not called a ‘Grant of Probate’, but a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’.
Estate administration follows essentially the same process whether there is a Will or not, so the likely timescales for matters such as the preparatory work and distributing the estate between beneficiaries are similar. However, the Family Court Statistics indicate that, from October-December 2022, the Court took 16 weeks to issue Grants for Letters of Administration from the date of submission. That timescale is some 8 weeks longer than it took to issue Grants of Probate.
Further, when there is no Will, the administrators are chosen by the Court as opposed to the deceased, and the beneficiaries are determined by inheritance laws and not the deceased’s wishes. This sometimes results in unexpected consequences that do not accord with the reality. As a result, there is a greater potential for disputes which can significantly complicate the probate process and cause considerable delays.
How We Can Help With The Probate Process
Our experienced probate solicitors provide a comprehensive probate service covering every aspect of the process. They aim to lessen the burden on executors and administrators at an incredibly stressful time following the death of a loved one. They will assist with the preparatory work required before the relevant application can be made and prepare and submit the application on your behalf. They will ascertain the inheritance tax position and liaise with HMRC as necessary. Executors and administrators are under a legal duty to act properly and effectively and can be held personally liable if they fail to do so. Our probate solicitors will be with you every step of the way, ensuring you fulfil your legal obligations and that the process runs as smoothly and quickly as possible.