How Long Does Probate Take?

It all depends upon the complexity of a person’s estate, whether there is a valid will, whether the estate exceeds inheritance tax thresholds and other factors. In the simplest cases, grant of probate may be possible in four to six weeks; several months isn’t uncommon, and in the worst cases granting of probate can take years… Here’s a quick guide to how to obtain probate.

How long does probate take with an uncomplicated estate

If an estate is uncomplicated and uncontested, the application for probate (whether by the executor directly or by their professional advisor) often proceeds quickly. Under such circumstances, it’s not unusual for the probate forms to be completed, an interview held with the Probate Registry and the Grant of Representation issued in a month or so (there is no probate time limit for the issue of a grant of representation).

However, various considerations can lead to a lengthening of the process. One of the most important of these is where the value of the estate exceeds the current inheritance tax threshold and an inheritance tax account must be prepared.

Grant of probate where an inheritance tax account is required

The requirement for an Inheritance Tax (IHT) Account is often cause for a prolonged grant of probate process. If the value of an estate is more than the threshold for requiring an IHT account it becomes necessary to check the dates applicable to the death values for the deceased person’s estate.

Doing this often requires a written valuation for a property or land. Even for one property this will take time; where the deceased owned a large portfolio of land or properties (perhaps they held a rental portfolio) the process will inevitably take much longer.

Where estate assets fall below the IHT threshold, formal valuations may not be required. This simplifies the probate process considerably because the bureaucratic procedures of the banks, building societies and life insurance companies won’t be involved.

Other factors that can prolong probate include the following:

The deceased has made gifts during their lifetime
The deceased is the beneficiary of a trust
The deceased owns a business
Agricultural property is included in the estate
The will is contested

In any of these cases, the help of a specialist in wills and probate will almost certainly be required.

How long does probate take – the practical steps

Several practical steps are required to obtain probate and the issue of a Grant of Representation (where there is a valid will). If there isn’t a will, the process is more complicated and the document awarded is known as Letters of Administration.

Typically, the probate application involves the following:

Preparation of probate forms
Submission of probate forms
Payment of probate fees
Interview with the Probate Registry
Swearing of an oath at the Probate Registry
Issue of a Grant of Representation

Probate records for all such applications (going back to 1858) in England and Wales are held by the Probate Registry. For records before this, The National Archives at Kew in Surrey may be able to help.

Simplify the probate process

Depending on the existence of a will, the size and complexity of the estate, whether the will is contested, and the need for an inheritance tax account, obtaining probate can take anything from a month to a more than a year. One of the actions that can help to simplify the probate process is writing a legal will.

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