Probate: What is it, what’s the process and how long does it take?

Dealing with the legal aspects of the death of a loved one can be emotionally taxing. Add to this the complexities that come with being the person(s) left to sort through the deceased person’s assets, and it makes for a stressful time.

Often unsure of where to start, read on to learn about probate, the process and when you need to seek legal advice.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal right to have access to a deceased person’s estate. The estate consists of their possessions including any property and money. By being granted probate, you can access things such as the person’s bank account.

The probate process

The process for probate will vary depending on whether the deceased person left a will. If so, then the person named in the will as the executor will need to apply for a Grant of Probate. This grant will allow the executor the ability to access the deceased person’s finances and also to share out their assets as outlined in their will.

Where a will is not left, someone, often a next of kin or close relative, will need to make an application to the probate registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration. This grant will confirm the applicant as the administrator of the estate; giving them the power to deal with the estate.

Once the executor/administrator has been confirmed and the relevant grant issued, the executor/administrator will have some key tasks to do. This will include paying any inheritance tax due on the estate and collecting in the assets. This part of the process can be time consuming as it may include the selling of property or other valuables. The executor/administrator is also responsible for paying any outstanding bills and debts.

Once the assets have been collected and inheritance tax and any debts paid, the executor/administrator will then distribute the estate to those entitled who are known as the beneficiaries.

How long does probate take?

While on paper the process of probate is relatively straightforward, the process can sometimes be lengthy.

A time-consuming aspect in applying for probate is gathering all the information required when completing the application forms.  This information may include property valuations and a comprehensive list of the deceased person’s financial position, including any investments.

Recently made cash gifts, (within the last seven years), also need to be documented as they may be liable to inheritance tax.

With so many variables to be considered, putting a timeframe on how long probate takes is difficult to do. In broad terms however, simple estates (those with no property to sell and just one bank account) are likely to take around 12 weeks to settle. More complex estates, for example where there are investments, property and multiple bank accounts, could take anything from six to nine months or more to settle and for beneficiaries to receive their inheritance.

When to seek legal advice

When coping with grief, negotiating your way through the many complexities of wills, inheritance and estates can be overwhelming. Our expert wills and inheritance team can help by dealing with the administrative side of a person’s death. This includes handling the inheritance tax return and the application for the Grant of Representation. The team can also collect the deceased person’s assets and distribute to beneficiaries.

Will executors often have a lot to deal with and when things go wrong, such as bothersome assets or fallings out between heirs, our team can help support and advise executors on how to best resolve matters.

The team can also help with:

  1. Preparing a will
  2. Support with running a trust
  3. Advice on inheritance tax, transferring equity and making gifts
  4. Contesting a will and will disputes

Also view our Wills and probate page.

If you’d like to find out more about the legal services offered by Smith Partnership, don’t hesitate to contact us via Alternatively, speak to a member of our team directly on 0330 123 1229.

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