How long does Probate take in the UK?

April 2024 

How Long Does Probate Take With A Will? | April 2024

Understanding the intricacies of the probate process is essential for anyone dealing with a deceased person’s estate. This article acts as a comprehensive guide to the duration of the probate process, highlighting the factors that influence its length and the steps involved. The article will help you do the following-

1 – Recognise the importance of understanding the probate process.

2 – Learn about the key factors that affect how long probate takes.

3 – Discover the main stages of the probate process.

4 – Understand the benefits of knowing the probate timeline for better estate planning.

5 – Take informed actions regarding estate management and probate applications.

Key Takeaways & Learnings From This Page on How Long A Probate Takes

1 – Due to delays, the probate process is taking up to a year, with around 15 weeks to get the grant of probate from the application.

2 – The presence of a will can speed up the probate process, although disputes over the will can cause delays.

3 – Executors play a crucial role in the speed of the probate timeline. Organised and diligent executors can significantly reduce delays.

4 – Inheritance tax must be paid before the grant of probate is issued, which can affect the timeline.

5 – Legal delays, such as disputes over the will or difficulties in paying inheritance tax, can extend the probate duration.

6 – Understanding the probate timeline helps set realistic expectations for the estate’s settlement.

7 – Tracking the progress of a probate application can aid in navigating the process more efficiently.

Topics that you will find covered on this page

How Long Does Probate Take?

UK Care Guide research has shown that there are currently increased delays caused by a backlog.

We found that average probate timescales are around 15 weeks from the point of submission to the point of a grant being issued.  In 2023, the wait time was about 9 weeks, so you can see that wait times have increased more than 50%.

Overall, it means that the length of time to complete probate is now close to a year.

The duration of the probate process can vary significantly. According to GOV.UK , it should usually take 9-12 months to complete probate.

The specific duration can vary widely, depending on the complexity of the deceased’s estate and other factors. For simple estates, probate may be completed in a few months. Alternatively, larger and more complex estates may take over a year or even longer.

According to The Law Society , the main factors influencing probate duration are the estate size and complexity, whether there is a will, inheritance tax due, any disputes over the will or estate, and the efficiency of the executor.

It is also important to note that larger, more complex estates typically take longer.

If the deceased left a will, the probate process is often quicker because the will provides clear instructions about how the estate should be distributed. Although, this is not a guarantee of speed, as a dispute over the will’s contents may arise.

If there is no will, the estate must be distributed according to the intestacy rules, which can take longer. Without a will, an application must be made to the probate registry for a grant of letters of administration.

The efficiency of the executor or administrator can also affect the length of probate.

For instance, the probate process can be quicker if the executor is organised and diligent. Conversely, if the executor is slow or disorganised, delays may occur.

Any inheritance tax due must be paid before the grant of probate can be issued. This can take some time, especially if the executor needs to gather funds to pay the tax. Delays can also occur if the executor needs to provide additional information to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) about the estate’s value.

How Long Is Probate Taking?

Legal delays can occur at any stage of the probate process. Research from Which? found that, on average, fully contested wills can take 18-24 months to settle through the court system, and therefore just add to the probate timescales. 

Consequently, this lengthens the legal process by a substantial amount. For instance, there may be delays in obtaining the death certificate. This is needed to fulfil an application.

Another common cause of legal delays is disputes about the will. If someone challenges the validity of the will or disputes the distribution of the estate, this can significantly delay the probate process.

Such disputes may need to be resolved in court, taking a long time and adding to the cost of probate. Common reasons for contesting a will include concern over the deceased’s mental capacity at the time of the will’s creation.

Sometimes, there may be delays in paying inheritance tax, especially if the estate is large.

This is because there may be a large amount of tax, and the executor may need to raise funds to pay it. Consequently, this can delay the issue of the grant of probate.

There may be delays in distributing the estate, mainly if the beneficiaries cannot be found or if there are disputes about the distribution.

Common Causes of Probate Delays

Understanding the factors that commonly cause delays in the probate process can help executors and beneficiaries take proactive steps to avoid them. When you couple these delays with the backlog we are currently seeing, it is possible that probate may take much longer than you expect.

1 – Incomplete or Incorrect Documentation

One of the most frequent causes of delay is submitting incomplete or incorrect documentation to the Probate Registry. This can include things like errors in the application form, missing attachments, or inaccuracies in the will itself.

Mitigation Strategy

Ensure all documents are double-checked for accuracy and completeness before submission. Utilising legal advice or probate services can also reduce the risk of errors.

2 – Disputes Among Beneficiaries

Disputes among beneficiaries regarding the will’s contents or the distribution of assets can significantly prolong the probate process.

Mitigation Strategy

Open and transparent communication between beneficiaries and the executor can help resolve disputes early. Mediation services may also be beneficial in finding a resolution acceptable to all parties.

3 – Complex Estate Valuation

Estates with complex assets, such as overseas property, business interests, or valuable collections, can take longer to value accurately, delaying the probate process.

Mitigation Strategy

Engaging with professional valuers early in the process and ensuring all assets are documented can streamline the valuation process.

4 – Inheritance Tax Calculations and Payments

Delays in calculating or paying any due inheritance tax can halt the progress of the probate application.

Mitigation Strategy

Early engagement with a tax advisor to accurately calculate any inheritance tax due and arrange timely payment can prevent these delays.

5 – Probate Registry Backlogs

Backlogs at the Probate Registry, often due to high demand or staffing issues, can lead to delays beyond the control of the executor.

Mitigation Strategy

While difficult to mitigate directly, staying informed about current processing times and maintaining regular communication with the Probate Registry can help manage expectations.

By addressing these common causes of delay and implementing the suggested mitigation strategies, executors can help ensure the probate process proceeds as smoothly and swiftly as possible.

Are you looking for a professional to help support you with probate?

Kings Court Trust are here to help you.

No upfront costs
Telephone support available
Different levels of help available

The UK Care Guide has partnered with Kings Court Trust, one of the UK’s leading probate specialists, to bring you a cost-effective and premium level probate service.  Kings Court Trust have won awards for their customer service and this is a key reason as to why we have partnered with them.

We realise that for many it is essential that probate is completed quickly.  That is why their dedicated service is designed to speed things up as much as possible for you and consequently reduce the time it takes for probate to be completed.

You can speak to Kings Court to discuss the support that you need.

Call : 0333 567 1608

how long does probate take with a will

How Long Does Grant of Probate Take?

As previously explained, the grant of probate is a legal document that confirms the executor’s authority to deal with the deceased’s estate.

The probate registry issues it after the probate application has been submitted and reviewed. On average, when things are going well. it takes between two and eight weeks to obtain.

The probate application includes the will, if there is one, the death certificate, and other necessary documents. The probate registry reviews the application and, depending on whether everything is in order, issues the grant of probate.

Delays can occur if the probate registry is busy or requires additional information from the executor.

Why Does Probate Take So Long?

Probate is a complicated process that can be delayed by disputes, lack of organisation, missing information, the absence of a will and many other factors.

For instance, certain tasks can only be done in a particular order. An example of this is that the grant of probate cannot be issued until the inheritance tax has been paid, and the estate cannot be distributed to the beneficiaries until all the debts and taxes have been paid.

The legal duty of the executor to act in the beneficiaries’ best interest may also affect the time they take to complete the process once it is in their hands.

Tracking The Probate Application Progress

Although the probate process can be challenging, tracking the probate application progress can help you navigate it. After applying to the probate registry, contacting them to check its status is possible.

Typically, the executor is responsible for tracking the application. If they decide to follow the application, they should be prepared to provide the deceased person’s details and possibly answer questions about the estate.

Therefore, staying organised and maintaining clear records can help expedite this process.

It is important to remember that the probate process takes time. Even once the grant of probate has been issued, the executor still needs to administer the estate. This involves closing bank accounts, selling property, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets.

Although it’s understandable to want the process to be over quickly, it’s crucial to remember that this is a complex legal process.

Therefore, it is more important to complete it correctly than to rush it. It is best to enter the process with managed expectations regarding the time it may take.

The Probate Process

The probate process involves several key steps, each of which plays a crucial role in the legal proceedings following a person’s death. Understanding these steps can help executors and beneficiaries navigate the process more effectively.

1 – Applying for Probate

Once the will has been located and the executor named, the first step is to apply for probate. This legal document grants the executor the authority to manage the deceased’s estate according to the will’s instructions. Without a will, a close relative can apply for letters of administration.

2 – Valuing the Estate

Before the executor can distribute the assets, they must first value the estate. This involves listing all assets, such as property, savings, and investments, and deducting debts and liabilities. The estate’s value determines whether inheritance tax is due and affects the distribution of assets to beneficiaries.

3 – Paying Inheritance Tax

If the estate is liable for inheritance tax, this must be paid before probate is granted. The executor must calculate the tax based on the estate’s value and ensure it is paid within six months of the deceased’s death to avoid additional interest charges.

4 – Distributing the Assets

After all debts and taxes have been paid, the executor can distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as outlined in the will. This step requires careful management to ensure that all legal obligations are met and each beneficiary receives their rightful inheritance.

5 – Closing the Estate

The final step in the probate process is closing the estate. This involves preparing final accounts showing how the estate has been managed and distributed. Once the beneficiaries approve, the executor can close the estate, marking the end of their legal responsibilities.

Each step requires careful attention to detail and adherence to legal requirements. Executors must follow the process correctly to fulfil their duties and distribute the deceased’s estate as intended.

The Probate Timeline

As outlined above, the probate timeline involves several stages, each with its own typical duration. Providing specific time frames helps executors and beneficiaries manage their expectations and plan accordingly.

Following the same steps above, we have set out how long each step of the probate process can take. 

1 – Application for Probate

The initial application for probate or letters of administration typically takes 4 to 8 weeks to process. This period allows the Probate Registry to review the application and issue the necessary documents.

2 – Valuation of the Estate

Valuing the estate can vary significantly in duration, taking anywhere from 2 to 6 months. This stage depends on the complexity of the estate, including the types of assets involved and their locations.

3 – Payment of Inheritance Tax

If applicable, inheritance tax must be paid within 6 months from the end of the month in which the death occurred. Delays in this payment can incur interest charges, adding to the estate’s liabilities.

4 – Distribution of Assets

Once all debts and taxes have been settled, the distribution of assets can commence. This process can take several months, typically between 3 to 9 months, depending on the estate’s complexity and any disputes that may arise among beneficiaries.

5 – Closure of the Estate

Closing the estate, which includes finalising accounts and confirming asset distribution, can take an additional 1 to 3 months.

This stage completes the probate process, allowing the executor to discharge their duties fully.

Providing these specific time frames helps to clarify the probate process for those involved, ensuring that all parties have realistic expectations about the duration of each stage.

how long is probate taking

The Role of Executors

The executor plays a crucial role in the speed of the probate process. 

They are responsible for dealing with the deceased’s estate, which is a huge undertaking.

For instance, this includes valuing the estate, applying for probate, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries.The executor also has a legal duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. Therefore, they must deal with the estate efficiently and effectively while keeping the beneficiaries informed about the progress of the process.

How Long Does Probate Take With A Will?

When a person dies and has left a will, the probate process is generally easier and quicker. However, this is not a rule, as disputes and lacking organisational skills can delay and complicate the probate’s progress.

The probate process can be longer when a person dies without leaving a will. The estate must be distributed according to intestacy rules rather than the deceased’s wishes.

The intestacy rules provide a strict order of who should inherit the estate, potentially leading to disputes among the beneficiaries if certain parties feel they are being unfairly distributed. This can further delay the probate process.

On average, If there is no will, the probate process takes 9-12 months. However, Co-op Legal Services says this can take over a year for more complex estates.

Probate Time Limit

In the UK, there is no strict time limit for completing probate. Conversely, certain tasks do need to be completed within specific time limits. For example, the executor or administrator should apply for probate as soon as possible after the person’s death since the estate cannot be dealt with until probate has been granted.

There is a time limit for paying inheritance tax, which must be paid within six months of the person’s death. If this demand is not met, the tax amount may accrue interest. This leads to an even more considerable sum that must be paid.

The estate should be distributed to the beneficiaries as soon as all the debts and taxes have been paid and all the assets have been gathered.

Cost of the Probate Process

The probate process cost can vary depending on the complexity of the deceased’s estate. The costs of obtaining probate are split into two main parts: the probate application fee and the solicitor’s fees.

The probate application fee is a fixed fee set by the government. Currently, the fee is £273 for a personal application or £155 if the application is made through a solicitor. This fee was increased in April 2019 from £215 for a personal application and £155 for a solicitor application.

In addition to the application fee, there will typically be solicitor’s fees for handling the probate process. These fees often range from 1% to 5% of the value of the estate, plus VAT. For example, for an estate worth £500,000, a solicitor’s fees could range from £5,000 to £25,000 plus VAT.

The exact solicitor’s fees will depend on the specific circumstances and complexity of the estate. More time spent by the solicitor will increase costs. Estates with higher values typically have higher solicitor’s fees, although the fees are not strictly proportional to the estate value.

To get an accurate estimate of total probate costs, it is advisable to get a quote from a solicitor based on the details of the specific estate. The solicitor will provide a quote after assessing the information provided in a probate questionnaire.

You can get more information about the costs of probate here .

Strategies to Reduce Probate Costs

Minimising the costs of probate is crucial for preserving the value of the estate for the beneficiaries.

1 – Opt for Simplified Probate Procedures

Many jurisdictions offer simplified probate processes for smaller estates, which can significantly reduce legal fees and court costs.

2 – Consider the DIY Approach for Straightforward Estates

For estates without complex assets or disputes, executors may be able to handle much of the probate process without extensive legal assistance, thereby reducing solicitor fees.

3 – Accurate and Comprehensive Estate Planning

Effective estate planning, including the clear documentation of assets and wishes, can streamline the probate process and minimise the need for costly legal interventions.

4 – Shop Around for Probate Services

Comparing quotes from different solicitors or probate service providers can help ensure you receive competitive pricing for the necessary legal support.

5 – Utilise Tax Allowances and Reliefs

Understanding and taking full advantage of available tax allowances and reliefs can reduce the estate’s tax liability, leaving more for the beneficiaries.

By implementing these strategies, executors can significantly reduce the costs associated with probate, ensuring that the estate’s value is maximised for the benefit of the beneficiaries.

probate timeline

Who Is Allowed To Apply For Probate?

The testator usually appoints the person who should serve as the executor. If the testator ’s will doesn’t nominate such a person, it won’t be possible for one party to apply for probate. In such instances, one of the beneficiaries can apply for legal documents to act as administrator.

Consequences of Dying Without a Will

Dying without a will, known as dying intestate, can significantly impact the distribution of your estate and who is appointed to manage your affairs.

1- Intestacy Rules

Without a will, the deceased’s estate is distributed according to intestacy rules. These rules prioritise close family members such as spouses, civil partners, and children but may not reflect your wishes or provide for unmarried partners or close friends.

2 – Appointment of Administrators

The court appoints administrators to manage the estate without a will to nominate executors. This can lead to delays and additional stress for your loved ones during a difficult time.

3 – Potential for Family Disputes

The lack of clear instructions on distributing your assets can lead to disputes among family members, potentially resulting in long-lasting rifts and legal battles.

4 – Impact on Minor Children

Without a will specifying guardians for any minor children, the courts will decide who is best placed to care for them, which may not align with your preferences.

5 – Financial Implications

Dying intestate can also have financial implications for your estate and beneficiaries. Without tax planning through a will, your estate may incur higher inheritance tax liabilities.

Understanding the significant impact of not having a will highlights the importance of estate planning to ensure your wishes are respected, and your loved ones are provided for as you intend.

Our Final Thoughts

The probate process is a complex legal procedure that requires careful management and understanding. This article has provided a comprehensive overview of how long probate takes, the factors affecting its duration, and the roles of executors and inheritance tax in the process. Here are seven key pieces of information it has presented –

1 – Probate typically takes 9-12 months but can vary based on the estate’s complexity.

2 – A will can streamline the probate process, though it’s not a guarantee against delays.

3 – Executor efficiency significantly impacts the probate timeline.

4 – Paying inheritance tax is a prerequisite for issuing the grant of probate.

5 – Legal challenges and disputes can prolong the probate process.

6 – A clear understanding of the probate stages can help manage expectations.

7 – Regularly tracking the probate application’s progress is advisable for a smoother process.

Are you looking for a professional to help support you with probate?

Kings Court Trust are here to help you.

No upfront costs
Telephone support available
Different levels of help available

The UK Care Guide has partnered with Kings Court Trust, one of the UK’s leading probate specialists, to bring you a cost-effective and premium level probate service.  Kings Court Trust have won awards for their customer service and this is a key reason as to why we have partnered with them.

We realise that for many it is essential that probate is completed quickly.  That is why their dedicated service is designed to speed things up as much as possible for you and consequently reduce the time it takes for probate to be completed.

You can speak to Kings Court to discuss the support that you need.

Call : 0333 567 1608

Meet the author

Tom Walker

Tom is a Content Writer and Editor for UK Care Guide, having previously acted as Head of Online for the Manchester Historian, and also the former editor for The Peterloo Institute.

Tom is a graduate of the University of  Manchester with a BA (Hons) History degree. 

His particular specialisms include writing on issues relating to later life (e.g. stairlifts, live-in care) and elderly care, having previously worked in a care capacity.  

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Are you looking for a professional to help you with probate?  Kings Court Trust can help you.

Call : 0333 567 1608

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