When a family member passes away, the process of organising their affairs can seem daunting. One of the most important aspects to be sorted out early on is applying for grant of probate. The process can seem complex, but with the help of our team here at Goughs, it need not be.
Topics to be answered in this article
What is probate?
First let us explain a bit about what probate is. Probate is the process of administering somebody’s estate when they pass away. This covers everything from organising their property and assets, to paying the Inheritance Tax and distributing the assets in accordance with their Will.
For more information about what probate involves you can read our article on a guide to probate.
How long does probate take?
In England and Wales, probate generally takes around 6-12 months to complete, however in certain cases it can take longer. The timescales can depend on how complex the estate is, whether there is a property to sell, and how long it takes to receive responses from third parties.
Who is allowed to apply for probate?
If the deceased left a Will, they will have set out who they wanted to act as their executors. Usually the executors are family members or close friends, but they can also be professionals, such as solicitors. The executors are responsible for making the application for probate, and for administering the estate.
Does a Will make the process faster?
If the deceased did not leave a Will, they will not have appointed anybody as their executor, which means nobody has the legal authority to administer the estate. Their family members will need to get Letters of Administration to allow them to deal with the estate, rather than grant of probate. This process can take longer, particularly if the family cannot decide who is the best person to manage the estate. If they cannot agree, the Court sometimes has to become involved to resolve a dispute. This process can be very time consuming and costly.
What is the probate process and timeline?
Here are the main steps that need to be taken during the probate process:
- Register the death to get the death certificate. This needs to be done within five days of the death in England and Wales.
- Inform organisations of the death – all banks, utility companies, insurance providers and so on. The organisations will need to close the deceased’s accounts and stop any future payments going out.
- Inform beneficiaries that they are entitled to a share of the estate.
- Submit the application for grant of probate and Inheritance Tax forms.
- Pay Inheritance Tax. The executors may need to take out a loan in order to do this, because the deceased’s assets will not have been released by the time the Inheritance Tax has to be paid.
- Pay off the deceased’s debts. All liabilities such as credit cards, loans and mortgages will need to be paid off before the estate can be shared out between the beneficiaries.
- Make a life insurance claim, if the deceased had one in place.
- Share out the assets between the beneficiaries, in accordance with the deceased’s wishes set out in the Will.
The process usually takes around 6-12 months from start to finish. Obtaining the grant of probate takes 6-12 weeks. Collecting in the deceased’s assets usually takes between 6-12 weeks, but can take much longer, particularly if there is a property to sell. Distributing the assets then usually takes 6-12 weeks.
What factors can cause a delay
There are a number of factors that can cause delays, which can include:
- Delays at the Probate Registry.
- Selling properties that the deceased owned.
- Dealing with assets outside the UK.
- Wills containing Will Trusts.
- Locating beneficiaries if they are not known to the executors.
- Deceased executors or beneficiaries.
- Complex estates, where the deceased owned many assets.
- Delays caused by third parties.
- Dealing with HMRC if Capital Gains Tax or Income Tax are payable.
- Contested Wills, where the Will is challenged by a family member.
How can Goughs help?
It is easy to underestimate the amount of work involved in the administration of an estate. The process can be very daunting, especially as most executors will never have had to deal with the process before.
Having the support of a solicitor can make the process much more manageable. Solicitors can handle any stage of the probate process, and can provide as much help as is required. Having a solicitor to help can take a lot of stress out of the process, and can make the process move more quickly. The executors can decide how much of the work they would like to hand over to the solicitors.
At Goughs our solicitors are very experienced in dealing with all kinds of estates. We understand how difficult it is to deal with the affairs of a family member who has passed away, and are always on hand to offer help and support at this time.
If you have any questions about probate, or would like to find out more about how Goughs can help you, please contact us today.