Death is inevitable. When a loved one dies, their wishes can sometimes seem evident to their family and friends. For instance, it is quite common for parents to share their estate between their offsprings.
Therefore, it can be quite frustrating when a potential inheritor finds the process of receiving an inheritance taking longer than necessary, even when an attorney is administering it.
What is Probate?
Probate is the process of proving in court that the Will of a person who has died is valid. If you are not friendly with the probate process, it can be hard to understand why your inheritance is not passed on immediately, following the demise of a loved one.
Nonetheless, it is crucial to understand that a Will is not just an assortment of wishes; it is a legal document that must be dealt with using a legal process. Therefore, probate covers the process which the executors of the Will use. The executors are allowed by law, to take legal control of the deceased’s assets and estate.
This procedure occurs in order to protect the integrity of a Will (or the rules of intestacy if no Will exists) and make sure the estate is administered fairly to all inheritors.
How long can it take before the estate is distributed?
Before the estate can be distributed, it may take several months for the people in charge of the estate to obtain a Grant of Probate. This is needed to allow them to access the money and assets of the person who has passed on.
Even for a simple estate, it is likely to take three to six months for funds to be allocated after probate has been granted. It can even take longer for more complicated estates.
Why does probate take so long?
There are two significant reasons why probate solicitors hold money for an extended period after probate. These reasons are estate complexity and legal issues.
1. Estate Complexity
A Grant of Probate enables the executor to access the funds and bank account of the deceased. In simple state cases, the deceased may only have a single account. However, since every institution has its process for allowing access, transferring money, and closing the account, it may take up to four weeks or more.
The process is not as simple as just transferring money directly from the deceased’s account into the inheritor’s account. The people dealing with the estate might have to open a new account to collect the estate together before distributing it.
It is, however, more complex, if the deceased has multiple accounts or some other financial assets. As such, it takes a more extended period to access and collect the deceased’s money. It could take months, depending on the rate of administration required.
If the estate owns one or more properties, there may be a need to get them sold before any money can be allocated to inheritors, and this can take a prolonged period.
There is no exception. Even if you are only expecting a small bequest that could be covered by the money collected from the deceased’s accounts, there is still a need to wait, as the estate’s liabilities (debt) need to be paid before inheritors.
For instance, an estate may have collected £15,000 from the late person’s account, and you may be entitled to £7000, while estate liabilities may require £20,000. In this scenario, the estate would need to be sold in order to pay off the liabilities before you can receive your inheritance.
The complexities of estate management always result in a time-consuming process. It is even more problematic when there are shares in a business, assets held abroad, and missing beneficiaries. All of these can result in attorneys having to wait for longer than expected.
2. Legal Issues
Aside from the general complexities of an estate, several legal considerations can result in a probate solicitor holding the estate’s money for an extended time after probate.
Three of the most common considerations are:
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It is essential to understand that the personal agent administering the estate, whether as an executor or administrator, is legally responsible for the estate. This implies that if the estate owes creditors and is unable to pay these debts, the personal agent is liable.
For this reason, the attorney administering the estate, whether as, or on behalf of the personal representative, has to take steps to secure themselves or their client from liability.
Investigations by the Department of Work & Pensions
There are cases where the DWP may wish to make an investigation into any benefits the deceased may have received. An estate will be made aware of these investigations, but there is no precise timeframe on how long it would take to complete. As such, this kind of investigation can take anything from a few months or years.
If Inheritance Tax needs to be paid, it can take months or even years for the HMRC to check the values submitted and calculate the tax date. The estate will need to ensure it has kept enough money back to pay the tax until HMRC has agreed with the values.
How long can a solicitor hold money after probate?
There is no definite answer to this question. To answer it, we would need to know a lot about your specific case. However, what we can say is there are several reasons why a probate solicitor may need to hold money after probate has been granted.
As a rule of thumb, it is wise to expect to wait for a minimum of six months from when the probate is granted to receive money from the estate, though it is not unusual to have to wait longer.
At Qredible.co.uk, we understand the inheritance process after a bereavement can be emotional. Our experienced probate solicitors will make everything possible to lessen the time frames and make sure you get all your issues sorted out in a stress-free manner.
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