Probate is a legal process that is often needed when a person dies. It gives an individual, or a group of people, the legal authority to deal with a deceased person’s property, money and possessions – known as their ‘Estate’. Probate is not required every time a person dies and examples of this include if the deceased passes all their assets to a surviving husband or wife or owns very little, known as a ‘small estate’. In England & Wales there are no time limits when applying for Probate, although it’s possible that you won’t be able to deal with your loved one’s affairs until you’ve got a Grant of Probate, so you might not want to delay for too long. Also, if you leave it too long, you might find yourself in the position where interest payments become due. In this article, how long can probate be delayed, we take a look at the process and mechanism involved.
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Is there a time limit on applying for probate?
Although there is no time limit on the probate application itself, there are aspects of the process which do have time scales. Inheritance tax, for example, is a very important part of attaining probate in the first place and must be done within 6 months of the date of death. The payment of inheritance tax is vital and must be completed before probate courts can issue a grant of probate.
How long does probate usually take?
Probate usually takes on average anywhere between 4 and 8 months. This time frame is on the smaller side if there is no inheritance tax to pay. Factors that may impact timescales are; the size of estate, the kind of assets included when multiple parties are involved, if a property is involved and if there is no Will.
What happens if there is no Will?
When a person dies without leaving a valid Will, their property (the estate) must be shared out according to certain rules. These are called the rules of intestacy. A person who dies without leaving a Will is called an intestate person. Only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under the rules of intestacy. If someone makes a Will but it is not legally valid, the rules of intestacy decide how the estate will be shared out, not the wishes expressed in the Will. If there is no will in place it is more difficult to understand who should look after the estate and who will receive the assets. The person who deals with an estate where there is no will is called an ‘administrator’ and is usually the deceased person’s next of kin but can be passed to a solicitor. In terms of the estate, there are laws in place which help decide who the inheritance will go to.
What steps to take when someone dies
In addition to dealing with the funeral arrangements, there are a number of steps that need to be taken before you can deal with the deceased’s financial affairs:
- You should register the death within 5 days. By doing this you will obtain a death certificate. This is an important document that you must keep safe.
- If the deceased left a will, an executor will have been named. This is the person responsible for handling the estate of the deceased. Once the executor has the original copies of the Will and the death certificate, they can apply for probate. If someone dies without a Will, the application process is the same, but you will get ‘letters of administration’ rather than a ‘grant of probate’.
- You will need to estimate any inheritance tax liability and notify HMRC of the same. We can advise upon this.
- Once you have the Will, death certificate, and grant of probate, you are then in a position to notify the banks, utility and insurance companies.
How we can help
We have a proven track-record of helping clients draft their wills and deal with probate. This includes relatively straightforward estates and also complex estates where assets are held all over the world. We will guide you through all the necessary legal due diligence in a comprehensive and timely manner. We firmly believe that with the right solicitors by your side, the entire process will seem more manageable and far less daunting.
How to Contact our Wills and Probate Solicitors
It is important for you to be well informed about the issues and obstacles you are facing. However, expert legal support is crucial in terms of guiding you through the often emotional process of probate in a sensitive and supportive manner and help ensure you achieve a positive outcome.
To speak to our Wills and Probate solicitors today, simply call us on 0345 901 0445, or allow a member of the team to get back to you by filling in our online enquiry form. We are well known across the country and can assist wherever you are based. We also have offices based in Cheshire and London.