The UK Probate Process Explained
20th December 2018
As one of the few Chartered Accountants in the area who have taken up the new opportunity to become authorised to conduct non-contentious Probate work, we've been offering probate accounting and Estate administration for a while now.
We are currently assisting Executors/Administrators with the administration of a number of Estates – the total value of these Estates at the present time being in the region of £10m. In each case, we have extracted Probate as the first phase of the overall Probate and Estate Administration timeline.
Our research has shown that local people are asking the following questions about the probate process:
Q1: What is a final accounting in probate?
The personal representatives (Executor or Administrator) should prepare Estate accounts to demonstrate to the residuary beneficiaries what assets and liabilities were comprised in the Estate. The Estate accounts will also show what IHT has been paid, the expenses incurred during the administration period (such as the funeral expenses, valuation fees, etc.) and how the assets have been distributed to the other beneficiaries.
The Estate accounts must also show the income received during the administration period such as dividends, interest, rental income from property and any other types of income.
The result of the Estate accounts is to show what amounts are available for distribution to the residuary beneficiaries and the methods by which this is to be achieved. The residuary beneficiaries will then approve the accounts by signing them and acknowledge receipt of amounts due. This discharges the personal representative from liability.
Typically, we would prepare the Estate accounts as part of our service to the personal representatives.
Q2: What happens after probate is granted?
The grant of probate provides the personal representatives with the legal authority to collect in the assets of the Estate, pay the Estate debts and administer the Estate property; paying legacies to the beneficiaries as entitled, and disposing of the residue. In other words, the personal representatives have total control/responsibility from that point. They can of course appoint suitably qualified and experienced professional firms, such as ours, to deal with the administration of the Estate.
We would usually be instructed by the personal representatives when the person has died and therefore be already in place and helping the personal representatives through this process.
In practice, we find that we work very closely with the personal representatives as we have to keep them advised and take their instructions on matters arising as we go along.
Q3: How long does an Executor have to settle an Estate?
"As long as it takes" is the quick answer. The role of Executor is extremely onerous. The Grant of Probate gives significant powers to Executors who are responsible to the beneficiaries for their conduct of the administration of the Estate. IHT has to be paid and IHT forms have to be filed within specified time limits. It might take months or years to deal with the Estate, particularly if it contains property, a business, complex investments, trusts, difficult historic liabilities, complex gifts and transactions within six years of death, and so on.
Nine to twelve months is often quoted as a typical time to complete an Estate – but it can take years. Beneficiaries can always talk to the Executors if they feel the process is taking too long. In an extreme case, legal action can be taken against an Executor by a Beneficiary.
Q4: Do beneficiaries have to go through probate?
No. Beneficiaries don't have to do anything. The personal representatives (Executor or Administrator) are responsible for obtaining probate (assuming the size and nature of the Estate makes it essential that probate is obtained).
Q5: How long does inheritance take after probate is granted?
See Q3. However, a personal representative might feel able to make interim distributions to beneficiaries during the course of the administration of the Estate, depending on the circumstances.
Q6: How long does probate take?
Our view is that it shouldn't take long to obtain probate, but it will always be the case that this will depend on the size and complexity of the Estate. In recent cases, we have obtained probate for our clients in the following timescales:
- £4.4M Estate (2017) probate obtained 5 months after death
- £8.8M Estate (2017) probate obtained 6 months after death
- £0.7M Estate (2018) probate obtained 4 months after death
Please give me, or my partner Lucy Parry, a call on 01489 885772 if you would like to talk about any current or possible upcoming responsibilities you may have as a personal representative of an Estate.
20 December 2018
Personal representative: Either an Executor or an Administrator
Executor: Appointed in the Will
Administrator: Where there is no Will, or the Will does not name an Executor, the Administrator is determined under a hierarchy set out in the Non-Contentious Probate Rules 1987
PARRY HANCOCK - As a firm, we are Authorised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales to carry out the reserved legal activity of non-contentious probate in England & Wales.