Whether you are the executor of a Will or a beneficiary you want to know how long it takes to administer and distribute an estate. Probate solicitors can talk you through the probate process, so you have a clearer understanding of what is involved and the timescales and support you if you are an executor.
Contact our team today to find out how we can help you.
Probate time estimates
It can be flattering to be asked to be an executor of a loved one’s Will, but some lay executors find that their appointment is a source of friction in the family or that beneficiaries have unrealistic expectations of how long it takes to administer an estate and distribute legacies. If you are in that position, you can hand over the administration of the estate to professional probate lawyers to efficiently handle the estate and liaise with you as the executor.
Probate time estimates are difficult, whether you are a lay executor coping with the administration of your first estate whilst also struggling through the grieving process, or a specialist probate solicitor, but they can range from 3 to 18 months. That is because probate time estimates and estate distribution timelines depend on:
- The size of the estate
- The complexity of the assets
- The beneficiaries and potential challenges to the Will
Estate size and complexity
Estate size and complexity affect the time it takes to administer an estate because:
- Assets valuations need to be obtained to assess the total value of the estate and the inheritance tax liability. This takes time if there is a property portfolio, shares in a family business or complex financial investments.
- The deceased carried out estate planning, such as lifetime gifts, but passed away within seven years of making the gifts.
- After the grant of probate is secured, assets need to be gathered and sold to put into effect the terms of the Will and pay debts, legacies and residual beneficiaries. This can involve the sale of a family home or business. Executors will want to balance getting a reasonable asset price with the beneficiaries' desire for the estate to be distributed as quickly as possible. An executor can come under pressure for speed from a beneficiary who is left £5,000 in the Will. However, the residual beneficiaries may want to delay the distribution of the estate to find the best possible price for assets, as a quick sale will impact the amount they receive.
Estate administration and challenges to a Will
Probate solicitors have seen a rise in challenges to Wills because of increasingly complex family relationships. A family member may want to question a Will for various reasons. For example, they do not think the Will made adequate financial provisions for them, or they are concerned their loved one was unduly influenced into signing a new Will shortly before they passed away.
Whatever the reason for a Will challenge, it can result in a delay in the administration of the estate and its distribution. Will solicitors advise that care is taken when making a Will to minimise the risk of the Will being challenged. If family dynamics are complicated, consider appointing probate lawyers as executors, or executors should think about asking a probate solicitor to sort out the estate for them, so they are not in the ‘direct firing line’ of unhappy relatives who are either wanting to challenge the Will or anxious about the delays in receiving their legacy.