13 Apr 2022

How Long Does the Probate Process Take?

A question asked commonly by clients is 'How long does the Probate process take?'. The answer varies from client to client as it is based on the complexity of the estate in question.

The death of a loved one is a cause of great sadness and an immensely unsettling time for those involved. Adjusting to a life without them, regardless of the passing being sudden or expected, is tough enough without worrying about the legal details of the Probate process.

If not already involved in the process on a regular basis – as a profession for example – a client may have questions like 'What is Probate?', 'How long does the Probate process take?', and 'What happens next?'

To help you through this, we’ve answered a few of those frequently asked questions in this article to help your understanding.

What is Probate?

This is the process of confirming who has been given the authority to administer the estate of the deceased, with the need for them to distribute the estate to the relevant beneficiaries based on the wishes expressly stated in a valid Will or under the rules of Intestacy. 

How long does the process take?

A straightforward Probate can take anywhere between six and 12 months to complete. This, however, is not a set rule and can take longer should complications with the estate arise. 

What is the standard timeline for Probate?

This is dependent on factors including, primarily, the complexity of the estate and its contents. The more complex the elements – whether it includes shares, properties etc – the longer the Probate process can take. 

Usually, a client should allow a month for their legal representation to get a clear picture of the elements involved in the estate. However, in times of urgency (such as a death in the middle of a house sale) Winn Solicitors acts promptly and has been able to apply within 24 hours of instruction. This is rare but if all information is available then we can expedite applications.

Then the Grant of representation will be applied for. This is a required document for a next of kin or executor of the estate if they want to claim, sell or distribute the assets of the deceased.  It permits access to bank accounts and allows for the settling of debts on the estate which needs to happen before it can be distributed. The grant should be issued six months after request.

Once received by the relevant financial institutions, there tends to be a wait for each. The turnaround time for the release of monies into specified accounts can take two weeks with some banks or 10 weeks with others, it really does vary.

During the administration, an advert can be placed in local newspapers with a two-month time span for any potential creditors to lodge claims for any debts related to the estate.

At the first opportunity, in a straightforward Probate, releasing some of the estate to the identified beneficiaries can be made so long as there are no claims on the estate. By the one-year mark, the remainder of the estate should be distributed in a straightforward scenario.

It is often commonplace to wait six months from the Grant of Representation if there is a risk of a claim on the estate being brought.

What factors can alter how long Probate takes?

There are a range of factors that can impact on the timescales involved in the Probate process. These include, as mentioned previously, the complexity of the estate with logic dictating the more elements to an estate, the longer they will take to organise and facilitate. 

If there are issues in relation to selling a property, or properties, inheritance, income or capital gains tax, or indeed the beneficiaries themselves, this can alter the timeline of Probate.

More complex intestacies can take much longer to administer, for example:

  • Those estates with a DWP enquiry;
  • The need for investigations into the Will’s validity;
  • A claim on the estate being made by a dependent party;
  • Insolvency of the beneficiaries or the deceased;
  • Or estates with insurable interests such as a missing beneficiary or complex intestacy.

It is important to note, the information and time spans mentioned in this article are generalised and may not be totally accurate for your individual situation.

To find out more about how our specialist Wills, Probate & Trust team can help you and provide you with a clearer answer to the question 'How long does the Probate process take?' in your unique circumstances, click here to be taken to our dedicated information page.

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