After someone dies, their Estate needs to be administered and their assets distributed in accordance with their Will or, if they did not leave a Will, with the Rules of Intestacy.
How long this takes can vary greatly depending on the size of their Estate and to whom their assets are left. If someone leaves their whole Estate to their spouse, it can be a relatively quick and easy process to transfer all of the assets.
The time taken will also depend on the Estate’s Executor or Administrator. It is their job to collect in and value all of the Estate’s assets, calculate and settle any tax liabilities, to include Inheritance Tax, sell or transfer assets, which may include clearance and sale of property, preparation of Estate accounts and distribution of the Estate to its beneficiaries.
This can be a complex and time-consuming job, particularly where many different asset-holders are involved, and if the Executor is not able to dedicate large blocks of time to the task then the winding-up of an Estate can drag on for many months, or even longer. It should be noted that there is a legal time limit for some aspects of the administration, such as submission of Inheritance Tax forms and payment of outstanding liabilities.
Appointing a professional Executor such as a solicitor is one way of ensuring that an administration proceeds without undue delay.
Grant of Probate and Letters of Administration
It is usually a requirement that the person who is undertaking the Estate administration will need to apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate or, if no Will was left, a Grant of Letters of Administration. This document formally appoints them to act in respect of the winding-up of the Estate. Whether or not this documentation is required depends on the value of the Estate, so the first job is to calculate the amount in question.
Time taken to wind up an Estate
The average time taken to value assets then apply for and receive a Grant is around 3-6 months, with the average time to complete an Estate administration around 9-12 months. The total time taken can be considerably longer if property needs to be sold or if some assets are held overseas.
Leaving a Will does not guarantee that an Estate will be administered more quickly, but it can ensure that everyone involved understands what the Deceased’s wishes were and help avoid misunderstandings and disagreements.
It is important that a Will is carefully drafted to avoid ambiguity and that consideration is given to the implications of leaving out close family members who may feel they have a legal entitlement to receive a legacy.
If you are concerned that your Will may be problematic, it is advisable to seek independent legal advice to ensure that it is clear and valid.
If you would like to speak to one of our Wills and Probate experts, ring us on 0345 2413100 or email us at email@example.com.