How Long Does Probate Take Without A Will?
When a person dies without leaving a Will, they are said to have ‘died intestate’. Inheritance laws dictate how their Estate should be distributed, and who should be responsible for doing so. This process is referred to as ‘probate’. In cases where there is no Will, probate is undertaken by individuals chosen by the Court, known as ‘administrators’. Our expert probate team regularly act for administrators, helping them to obtain the documentation required to carry out their duties and ensuring they comply with all of their legal obligations. The obvious question, and one we are frequently asked by our clients, is, ‘How long does probate take without a Will?’
Here, we explain how an individual can become an administrator, how the Estate will be distributed and, importantly, how long probate takes without a Will.
How Do Administrators Obtain The Authority To Administer An Estate?
When a deceased person leaves a Will, they nominate individuals to administer their Estate in accordance with their wishes. Those individuals are called ‘executors’ and are responsible for clearing all of the debts and liabilities of the Estate before dividing the remainder between the named beneficiaries.
If the deceased died intestate, anyone wishing to administer the Estate must apply to the Court for a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’. The spouse or civil partner of the deceased is first in line, with other family members ranking behind them in a specified order. Up to four people can act as administrators under a Grant of Letters of Administration. If multiple people apply and do not wish to work together, the Court will appoint the administrators in accordance with statutory rules known as the Intestacy Rules. Administrators have the same duties as executors, namely, to finalise the affairs of the deceased and administer their Estate.
How Will The Estate Be Divided If There Is No Will?
In the absence of a Will detailing how the deceased person wished their assets to be distributed, the Estate will be administered in accordance with the Intestacy Rules.
If the person who has died was married or in a civil partnership and had no children, the entire Estate will be passed to their spouse or civil partner. Unmarried partners are not entitled to inherit under the Intestacy Rules.
If the deceased had children and the Estate is valued at over £270,000, their spouse or civil partner will receive the first £270,000 and half of the remaining estate. The other 50% of the remaining half will be divided between the deceased’s children.
If the deceased was not married or in a civil partnership and had no children, the Intestacy Rules specify the order in which their family members should inherit. The rules are complex, and our probate solicitors will advise on how they apply to your situation.
How Long Does Probate Take Without A Will?
Every Estate is different, and the time it takes to complete the probate process will depend on several matters, including the size of the Estate and its complexity. If an Estate is straightforward and no issues arise, the process generally takes around 9-12 months, whether the deceased left a Will or not. However, statistics released by the Family Court indicate that it took 16 weeks for the Court to issue Grants for Letters of Administration from October-December 2022. That is double the time it took to issue straightforward Grants of Probate applied for online by executors appointed under a Will.
Whilst the process of Estate administration is generally the same regardless of whether there is a Will in place, matters can be complicated when the deceased dies intestate. The Intestacy Rules do not allow for modern family dynamics and often fail to reflect the reality of the deceased’s personal relationships. This can result in perceived unfairness and lead to conflict. If the deceased was unmarried or not in a civil partnership, for example, their partner will not be entitled to anything, regardless of the length of time for which they were a couple. Any disputes and resultant litigation will significantly delay the probate process. The best way to ensure those you love and care for are looked after when you are gone is to document your intentions in a Will.
How We Can Help With The Probate Process When The Deceased Did Not Leave A Will
You do not need to take legal advice when applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration or dealing with an Estate. However, probate procedures can be complex and overwhelming, and many administrators choose to seek the assistance of a solicitor when navigating the process, to minimise the likelihood of mistakes, delays and conflict. Further, given the high levels of trust afforded to them, executors and administrators have numerous legal duties that must be complied with when carrying out their duties. If they fail to do so, they can be removed from office and forced to personally make good any monies lost by the Estate as a result of their actions. Our expert probate solicitors have years of experience in Estate administration and provide a comprehensive, cost-effective probate service. We can assist with the entire process, dealing with any issues that arise on your behalf and ensuring the matter is dealt with as swiftly and efficiently as possible.