The circumstances of each person are unique, so it is extremely difficult to predict how long it will take to obtain a grant of representation and to administer the estate. As a rough guide, it usually takes three to six months from when we are first instructed to obtain a grant of representation (a little less in very straightforward cases, occasionally longer when complexities arise). Thereafter, the process of collecting in the assets, paying the liabilities, preparing estate accounts and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries can take a further three to six months.
Estates which are apparently simple can prove to be complicated and take much more time than is envisaged at the outset. Similarly, a large estate may prove to be straightforward and quite quick to complete.
Typical problems which may substantially increase the time taken are:
- the need to go through and sort out numerous old papers;
- searching for details of lifetime gifts which the deceased may have made;
- difficulty in realising assets or in settling tax or other liabilities;
- difficulty in tracing beneficiaries or in dealing with beneficiaries who are under age;
- foreign property and the need to liaise with foreign lawyers;
- trusts in which the deceased had an interest;
- agricultural or business property, especially Lloyd’s assets which cannot be wound up for at least three years.
Another factor which can hold up the completion of an estate is the possibility of a claim by someone who feels that they have not been properly provided for. The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 gives the power for such persons to apply to the court for an order for financial provision from the estate on the grounds that reasonable financial provision was not made for the applicant by the deceased’s will or on intestacy.
If such a claim is made, it will naturally delay the administration of the estate and we will call in our Contentious Probate Team to assist. Sometimes the mere possibility of a claim can also delay the administration because, if personal representatives have distributed an estate before such a claim is made, they can be made personally liable to pay the claimant and therefore have to be cautious. Generally, such claims have to be filed with the court within six months of the issue of the grant of representation and, if that is not done, the personal representatives are free to distribute without risking personal liability.
Whatever the cause of any delay, we will keep in touch with you regularly in order to tell you the position we have reached and how matters are progressing.
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Please contact us if you would like to learn more by speaking to one of our experienced team members.