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How long will it take for Probate to come through?

20 November 2020
Jan Friend
Estate Planning / IHT, Probate

Do you need help with probate?

At Friend & Grant we have been providing probate services for over five years. During that time we have dealt with many probate applications for executors, personal representatives and family members. There’s one question they all want an answer to: how long will it take for the grant of probate to come through?

So why is this such an important question? To answer we need to consider the reason why grant of probate is required and what types of estates need it.

Firstly, the grant of probate is required to get access to the deceased’s assets so that the personal representatives of the estate can pass them to the beneficiaries.

Assets that Do Not Need a Grant of Probate

You can gain access to certain assets without the need for a grant of probate.

Jointly Owned Assets

Assets held jointly with one or more other people do not need to go through probate. Such assets automatically pass to the other joint owners on death.

Take care with land and property. There are two different ways of holding those assets jointly: as joint tenants or tenants in common. Most property is owned as joint tenants, however some property will be owned as tenants in common. This is often where a solicitor has suggested it as part of estate planning or to avoid care home fees. You can determine the precise legal ownership of a jointly held property by a review of the land registry document. Property held as tenants in common will have the following restriction registered in Section B Proprietorship Register:

Restriction: No Disposition By A Sole Proprietor Or The Registered Estate (Except A Trust Corporation) Under Which Capital Money Arises Is To Be Registered Unless Authorised By An Agent Of The Court.

Assets Held in Trust

 Assets held in trust do not need to go through the probate process. That is true even if the deceased had a lifetime entitlement to the income or right of occupation, if the asset was property. Over recent years many people have put their own home into a trust, with the right to continue living there for the remainder of their lives. There are several companies promoting these products. One of the stated advantages is that the property does not then need to go through the probate process. That can save money for the beneficiaries and make the process of selling the property quicker.

Assets of Small Value

Some assets, although technically required to go through the probate process, will be exempted because of their size. This can include shares, savings accounts and life insurance pay-outs. Unfortunately there is no standard minimum amount across organisations. Each has its own limit for when they require to see the grant of probate before transferring the asset to the beneficiaries. As a rule of thumb, for shares the amount is normally £20,000 per holding and savings accounts will typically be £50,000. Amounts above these will need to go through the full probate process. For amounts below those limits there will usually be paperwork to complete and indemnities to sign.

Do note, however, that where a grant of probate is required for an estate, all of the assets mentioned above will need to be included on the inheritance tax forms.

How Long Does Probate Take to Be Granted?

 If you do need to go through the probate process you will want to know how long it will take. The reason you need the grant is to gain access to the assets. This might be either for yourself as beneficiary, or for other beneficiaries if you are acting as personal representative.

There are different steps to the process that need to be taken in order.

The First Step

The process starts with collating the information needed to complete the forms. You do this yourself, so the sooner you start the sooner it will be ready.

The Second Step

The next stage is completing the forms. You could either do these yourself or appoint a professional firm like ourselves to complete the forms for you. Where we act in this capacity we will always aim to complete the forms as swiftly as possible. However we are usually dependent on third parties, such as banks and life insurance companies, to provide us with the figures we need to complete the forms. In general though we would aim to complete the forms within 4-6 weeks of being appointed.

Once the forms are complete we will submit them to the tax office, if required, and then make a digital probate submission. Where we send in tax forms (for larger estates or ones that pay IHT) we must wait 20 working days before applying for probate. We can then expect to wait 6-8 weeks for probate to be granted.

The Final Step

Once probate has been granted the final step is to cash in the assets and distribute them directly to the beneficiaries. That will involve some form filling but should not take too long. Again it is dependent on third parties. Financial organisations are usually fairly prompt in cashing in assets once they have seen the grant of probate. However post Covid the world appears to have slowed down, and two years on we are still seeing a marked difference in response times. All in all I would expect the monies to start rolling in within 2-3 weeks of the grant being sent off.

Usually the main asset in an estate is the family home. Where this is to be sold the beneficiaries will often be keen to market the property before probate comes through. This is permitted where the deceased left a Will, but not where no Will existed. In any event you will not be able to complete the sale without obtaining probate and in most cases you will be unable to exchange contracts either.

Do bear in mind that these time frames are only indicative. If the estate is complex or there are unexpected delays then estates can take up to two years to finalise, even longer. Fortunately all the estates we have dealt with so far have been finalised much quicker than that!

If you need help with probate matters contact Jan Friend or see here for further information about how we could help with the probate process.

The content in this blog is correct as at 20/11/2020. See terms and conditions.

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