How Long Does Probate Take?

It can be quite a lengthy process to wind up a person’s estate. One aspect that takes up the majority of this is the Probate process. Unfortunately, some of the delays are unavoidable. You’ll need to be prepared for delays along the way and keep this in mind as you handle the deceased’s affairs. Read our short article on how long the Probate process can take, and some of the potential delays involved.

1) Summary in 30 Seconds

  • Probate is a large part of the process of winding up a deceased’s person’s estate.
  • The time it takes to process depends on the size and complexity of the estate – but it averages about 6-12 months.
  • Being the Executor and dealing with Probate for an estate can take many hours of work and admin. If the Executor does not have the time or capability, you should consider instructing a solicitor to deal with it for you.
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2) How Long Does Probate Take?

Being the Executor of an estate is a big responsibility, one which those involved will want to wrap up as quickly as possible. You will have to keep in mind that Probate can sometimes take a long time. How long can Executors expect Probate to take?

 

There is no definitive answer to this, because each estate is different and some are more complicated than others. However, on average it takes around 9-12 months.

A good deal of this time will be taken up with normal waiting periods involved when you submit the requisite paperwork or documents to the proper authorities. For this, you must” wait your turn” to be processed along with everyone else. There may also be delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused a back-log. This can affect processing times as well.

3) Potential Delays to Probate

There are some delays you may not be able to account for straight away, that may only be revealed as you deal with the deceased’s estate. This could include:

 

  • Issues with a property sale. In many cases, Probate will involve the sale of a property. There can be a number of hiccups that can arise when trying to sell a property – properties can be on the market a long time, buyers can drop out, Conveyancing delays, and so forth.
  • Difficulty tracing the original Will. It is not uncommon for the deceased’s original Will to be missing at the time of their death. The deceased may have written it a long time ago, and misplaced it in the subsequent years. The law firm whom they instructed might have closed down. Just because a Will doesn’t turn up straight away doesn’t mean all is lost – but the Executors will have to do a bit of investigative work, which can take some time.
  • Dealing with a poorly drafted Will. If the Will has ambiguous language or other problems with it’s structure or contents, it could become difficult to understand the deceased’s intentions. In cases where a Will has not be updated, Executors could be dealing with problems due to outdated information: Beneficiaries who have since died, gifts of possessions or items that are no longer present, and so on.
  • The Will is found to be invalid. In the worst cases, a Will might be found to be invalid for some reason. If this happens, the instructions given by the deceased will no longer apply to the estate and the Rules of Intestacy must be applied instead. Reaching the verdict that a Will document is not valid could take some time to resolve, and may even have to go to court in serious cases.
  • The death of the Executor. Another issue that can hold up the Probate process is the death of the Executor – especially if no replacement has been named in the Will. In this case, the role of Executor for the estate in question will fall to the person named as Executor to this Executor who has died.
  • Missing beneficiaries. As mentioned above, since the writing of the Will Beneficiaries may have died or be untraceable. It may be hard to trace certain individuals if their contact information is not readily available to the Executors.

4) Should You Use a Solicitor?

Another reason why the Probate process takes so long is the amount of work involved – there is a huge amount of administration involved in winding up an estate. Some estimates put it close to being 80-100 hours of work involved. So is it feasible for Executors to undertake this work themselves?

It will depend on the abilities and time constraints of the Executors. If an Executor has other serious commitments, they may not be able to do this all by themselves. Sometimes several individuals may be appointed as Executors in the Will, in order to share the workload and also in case one of the Executors cannot fulfil their duties for whatever reason. Another option is to appoint a solicitor as Executors in your Will. That way, on your death they will assume all the duties associated with this.

Another consideration is as to whether there is appropriate funds to pay to instruct a solicitor. This will need to be paid out of the deceased’s estate.

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