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How long does probate take?

How long does probate take?

How long does probate take?

One of the biggest problems with probate is that there really is no set time it should take and it all depends upon the estate in question.

In this post, we’ll look at the issues surrounding probate and explain some of the things that delay probate in different circumstances.

Need to write a Will? Write your’s on the Smart Will App in 10 minutes for just £19 or £29 for couples.

What is probate?

This is probably the area of biggest misunderstanding with estates and there are two areas that get mixed up; the grant of probate and administration of the Will.

When someone dies with a Will the executor needs to apply for permission to collect and distribute the assets. This is a formal process called ‘the Grant of Probate’.

For people who die without a will, their friends or family will need to apply for ‘Letters of Administration’.

Once these have been obtained the executor can then go to banks and financial institutions and start to gather the assets and begin the process of distribution.

Applying for probate itself is a fairly simple process but there is a lot of work that needs to be done before the application can be submitted and this is what takes the time. Smart Will can apply for probate for you for a fixed fee.

The executor needs to obtain a copy of the Will and then start to make an inventory of the estate.

This may well take a fair amount of time as not only do they need to list the assets, they will also have to include a valuation which may take some time, especially with the property.

At the same time, they will be collecting together all of the debts of the estate.

Once they have worked out exactly what is in the estate, they then need to complete a return to HMRC and where applicable pay any inheritance tax due. Even this is time-consuming as a payment reference number needs to be obtained at least three weeks before they make the payment.

Upon payment of the tax, HMRC will issue a receipt and only when this is in hand can a probate application be granted but this alone will take around 4-6 weeks.

The probate application for smaller estates will probably take around 3 to 4 weeks to grant but the more complicated the estate is, the longer this may be.

Once a Grant of Probate is made or letters of administration are provided the executor is then free to begin the process of distribution.

By this point, we can see that with a very simple and well-ordered estate the very minimum time probate has taken is in the region of 7-8 weeks.

Need to write a Will? Write your’s on the Smart Will App in 10 minutes for just £19 or £29 for couples.

How long does it take to distribute the assets?

This is often what people mean when they ask how long probate takes and this part of the process really does differ wildly.

All estates vary as do the number and type of beneficiaries so it is very difficult to give a definitive answer here.

For very small estates, with no property, a willing executor and only one beneficiary the process could be concluded very quickly indeed.

However, the process lengthens considerably with the complexity of the situation.

For example, if we think about how long it takes to sell a house, the receipt of money from the sale could actually be many months after it is put on the market.

Where there are Life Assurance policies, financial products in place or a share of a business to realise then actually gaining the value may take some considerable time and overseas property lengthens the time further.

The executor doesn’t have to wait until they have gathered all of the assets together to start making a distribution.

Where specific assets have been Willed then they can be handed over quite quickly.

Providing that they are happy that all debts have been cleared the executor could also decide to make an interim distribution to beneficiaries and then make a final distribution once all of the asset values have been realised.

Administering a Will from start to finish

We can see then that there really is no specific answer to the question ‘how long does probate take’.

What we can say is that the average time for relatively simple estates is in the order of 6 to 8 months.

The process is made quicker where someone has made a Will and has all of their affairs in order.

When someone dies without a Will then the process will naturally take longer and will require much more work and thought.

We’d always suggest that you make sure you have a valid Will in place and that you make sure you update it on a regular basis as this speeds up the probate application process.

The SmartWill service includes free updates for your Will and can speed up the probate process considerably.

Need to write a Will? Write your’s on the Smart Will App in 10 minutes for just £19 or £29 for couples.

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