No doubt one of the most frustrating factors of UK probate is the amount of time it takes for a deceased person’s belongings to be administered thoroughly. Even if a person has had the time to have a formal will created by an expert solicitor, there will still be a lengthy amount of time involved in probate. It is best to consider probate timescales in terms of months, and in some unfortunate cases even years.
So why can probate take months to be processed? Just collating the deceased’s personal savings and holdings can be a painstaking task that will take time to carry out – depending on the size of the estate and just how scattered individual items are. For example, this could include collecting details of all bank and building society accounts held, investigating shareholdings, managing assets and organising valuations. These factors assume that financial records have been kept, and that they are exhaustive, thorough and correct. However, the reality is that few of us are so organised when it comes to the financial aspects of our life, leaving a large headache for any future executors of our estates.
Other aspects of life that can lengthen the amount of time it takes for probate to be completed successfully include the status of the deceased (perhaps they owned a business, or had a large amount of either debtors or creditors), tax issues (currently, inheritance tax needs to be paid on estates valued at more than ?325,000) and whether there is the problem of intestacy present or not (when there is no valid will present).
As if all that was not enough to slow the process of probate down, there is always the chance that claims to the estate will be disputed. We have all seen enough soap operas to know how popular that theme is with screenwriters; when some distant long-lost relative appears in the nick of time to throw a financial spanner in the probate works. Contesting the will could cost a lot of time, so it helps to have someone willing to mediate in this case. It is believed most cases of probate can be settled within a number of months, but all it takes is one major hiccough to push that waiting time to over a year.