Why can Probate take so long? – Understanding Probate Delays

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Coping with probate delays can add stress during already difficult times. Gone are the days of a quick 10-day turnaround to obtain a Grant of Probate.

Steph Hemming, a Chartered Legal Executive in our Wills, Trusts and Probate team, shares practical tips to get prepared and guides you on what you can put in place to streamline the Probate process.

Approximately, 16 weeks is the current timescale for the Probate Registry processing a straightforward application for Grant of Probate, and this can be longer if the estate is taxable, or a paper application needs to be submitted.

How to speed up the Probate process?

Deciding what happens to your estate and possessions is not a topic that everyone feels comfortable talking about, but it is an important one! The process of obtaining a Grant of Probate can be a lot quicker if the person who has died has their affairs in order.

Keep your Will up to date

Ensuring your Will is up-to-date, and that the current executors and beneficiaries are still alive and are willing to take on the role, will mean that an online application can be made, rather than a longer paper application, which will have to be submitted in the post.

We are finding that on average postal applications are taking 4-8 weeks longer than online applications to be processed.

Keeping Good Records for the Estate

Before applying for the Grant of Probate, the personal representatives (executors or administrators) must make full investigations as to the assets in the deceased’s estate. If the deceased has up-to-date and clear records of their assets and liabilities, and ensures their chosen executors know where to find such information, it will save time making the process of investigating the estate and obtaining the relevant valuations much quicker. This will ensure the personal representatives will be able to submit the application for probate in good time.

What are Personal Representatives in Estate Administration?

Whether serving as an executor or administrator, you assume a significant legal role in the estate administration process as a personal representative. Your responsibilities encompass the management and oversight of the deceased individual’s financial assets, property holdings, and personal possessions. This includes diligently safeguarding and properly distributing all elements comprising the estate’s assets in accordance with applicable laws and the wishes outlined in the decedent’s will or relevant legal provisions.

Responsibilities of Executors and Administrators

Be Organised!

Be prompt in arranging formal valuations of assets and keep clear records of the enquiries made. Set reminders for expected timescales to hear from people, so that if information has not been received in the timescales expected, you can follow up. The sooner the information of the assets in the estate is obtained, the sooner you can apply for the Grant of Probate.

Once you have submitted the application to the Probate Registry or HMRC (where required), set reminders to ensure you have received notifications that they have what they require from you or have confirmed receipt of the Inheritance Tax (IHT) return to the Probate Registry. If not, telephone them to follow up.

Due to the volume of IHT returns and probate applications received, it can sometimes be the case that your application has been stopped as further information is required, which the Probate Registry have not yet requested from you.

Handling Inheritance Tax (IHT) Issues

It takes longer to obtain a Grant of Probate where an estate is liable to Inheritance Tax. This is because the personal representatives have to file an Inheritance Tax return to HMRC before being able to submit the application for the Grant to the Probate Registry.

HMRC currently takes around 20 working days to review the IHT return. HMRC will not authorise the Grant of Probate to be applied for until the estate’s IHT liability is paid, or an instalment plan agreed.

As soon as it becomes apparent that an estate is taxable, it is a good idea to consider how payment of the tax is going to be settled. The personal representatives have until the end of the sixth month after the date of death to pay the IHT before interest starts accruing on the tax due.

Efficient Tax Payment Methods

IHT can be paid by funds from the deceased’s bank accounts, which are able to be closed without a Grant, liquidating investments, or via the ‘Direct Payment Scheme’ where an institution can make payment of the estate IHT liability directly to HMRC. To speed up the process, it is advisable to make a payment of the tax due on submission of the return to HMRC.

For further information on IHT we would recommend speaking to a specialist IHT Advisor.

Consider Professional Probate Assistance

Executors can obtain a Grant of Representation without the assistance of a professional; however, using a professional can ensure that the correct information is obtained and submitted for both the IHT return (where applicable) and the application for the Grant. This will prevent potential delays from wrong information being submitted or HMRC or the Probate Registry needing to request further information.

Obtaining a Grant of Probate and administering an estate can be very time-consuming for a any personal representative who has other responsibilities, such as their job or family commitments. Appointing a professional can remove the administrative burden from the personal representative and avoid potential delays that might occur from the personal representative having to balance their responsibilities.

Contact your Gloucestershire Probate Solicitors today.

WSP Solicitors are experts in this field and have been helping and supporting our clients through difficult situations for over 260 years.

Contact us today here or by using the contact form on this page. Alternatively, you can call and speak to a member of the team on 01453 847200.

 


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