January 12, 2016

What is Probate? And how long can I expect it to take?

This post was written by: Jenna Dunstall

what is probate? How long will it take?

When someone dies and they have substantial assets, a Grant of Probate is required to be obtained.  A Grant of Probate (also referred to as Grant of Representation) is merely a court stamped document which names the personal representatives of the estate.  Financial institutions will not release the deceased’s funds for distribution until they have had sight of a Grant and can rest assured that they are paying the monies to the correct person/people.  A Grant is not always required, for example, if the deceased owned all their assets jointly with another person or they did not own any property, had no stocks or shares, but had various bank accounts with different banks, although each account held less than about £15,000, then the banks would usually just require a form to be completed and signed in front of a solicitor for the funds to be released.  Every bank has its own rules about what amount it will release without the Grant and they will let you know what their requirements are once they are informed of the death.

In order to apply for a Grant an Inheritance Tax form must be completed and an Oath must be sworn.  The personal representative must therefore ascertain the date of death value of all the assets and liabilities in order to complete the form.  This can take some time depending on how long it takes the institutions to write to you with the information.  The Inheritance Tax form is different depending on whether the estate is subject to Inheritance Tax or not.  If the estate is not taxable, then the process is rather quick.  A short financial form is completed and submitted to the Probate Registry together with a sworn Oath and the Probate Registry will usually issue the Grant in around two to three weeks.  If the estate is taxable then a very detailed financial form must be completed.  Once completed, it must be submitted to HMRC and any Inheritance Tax must be paid.  HMRC can take around eight weeks to assess the papers and issue a receipt which indicates that the initial tax has been paid.  This receipt is then sent together with the Oath to the Probate Registry who, again, will issue the Grant within two to three weeks.

A time-frame for obtaining the Grant can be provided, but the length of time it take to administer an estate in full varies, as certain tasks can take longer than others and unexpected issues may arise during the administration.  In any event, once the Grant is obtained, the assets can be liquidated, the liabilities settled and the estate distributed.

Personal representatives really do have to dedicate their time to the administration if they want to complete it in a reasonable time, although they must do a thorough job to avoid potential claims against them personally.


Jenna Louise Dunstall