We take a look at the main reasons why probate might be delayed...
At Get Probate, our Probate practitioners have years of experience helping many people to deal with the probate, taking the stress off them at the most difficult of times.
The administration of an estate usually goes according to plan when professionals are involved. However, there a number of factors that could delay the probate process, causing it to drag on for months or even years. Some of these factors are completely outside the control of any Executors.
So, with this in mind we wanted to look at the main reasons why probate might be delayed.
Problems with the Will
If there’s a properly written Will in place then the probate process is going to be easier, and in most cases quicker. A Will should name any appointed Executors, who will then be responsible for dealing with the administration of an Estate. This will also reduce the risk of disputes from any beneficiaries who are unhappy with the terms of the Will.
Difficulties can arise when a Will either isn’t written correctly, for example, the terms of the WIll could be vague and ambiguous, which can lead to disputes over its interpretation, resulting in legal costs down the line. Some Wills fail to specify or appoint a valid Executor, and there can be queries as to the validity of the Will itself, in regards to whether it was signed and witnessed correctly. Of course of a Will can’t even be found, but there’s a suspicion that the deceased left one, then this can slow things down straight away.
When trying to find a Will, enquiries can be made with local solicitors and banks, for a search to be carried out. If a copy is found but not the original, the Probate Registry can accept this for obtaining the Grant of Probate, providing the appropriate evidence and consents are obtained. If its validity is being questioned, then evidence needs to be gathered from any witnesses.
It’s expected that any Estates, which have more than two or three beneficiaries, will take longer to go through probate. Each of them will need to be notified in regards to the probate administration, and if they need to sign any documentation, it’s sometimes likely that one or two will drag their feet.
This can often be down to geography more than anything, as multiple beneficiaries could be spread across the country, and difficult to contact or locate. If a beneficiary can’t actually be found, their family connection must be evidenced with birth or marriage certificates etc, and enquiries with the deceased’s friends and relatives will need to be made.
Also, with more beneficiaries comes the increased likelihood that some of them may come to disagreements and contest the Will itself. It could then take years for the validity of the Will to be sorted out. A few beneficiaries might not even speak to each other, or there could even be an ongoing family-feud that threatens to stall the probate process.
The death of an Executor
Further complications can arise if a sole Executor or Personal Representative was to pass away before the Grant of Probate was obtained, or just after it was granted. When this happens, it needs to be established if the deceased Executor left a Will, and if they appointed an Executor on their behalf. If they did, the Executor of the deceased Executor then needs to step in and take over the role of the previous one, in accordance with the Chain of Representation.
When a Personal Representative of the deceased, who has been appointed under the Rules of Intestacy, passes away before the Grant of Probate, another will need to be selected. The next Personal Representative will have to be chosen in accordance with the order of priority, in line with the Rules of Intestacy.
Complex Estates and Inheritance Tax
Any smaller Estates, which have a total value less than £325k and have no Inheritance Tax (IHT) to pay, will generally cause fewer delays in regards to the probate process. More complications tend to occur when an Estate is more complex, and higher in value than the IHT threshold.
Having to value everything, including any property, business assets, interests in Trusts etc, can take a considerable amount for time. Delays can be caused by multiple third parties as well in these situations, from banks and building societies to insurance companies. Raising the funds to pay HMRC may be an issue prior to the Grant of Probate being obtained.
Reducing the risk of delays
Without a doubt one of the best ways to ensure the entire probate process gets off to a strong start, is by making sure that there is a valid WIll in place, and that any Executors who named in the Will are aware of where it is, including any copies. Ideally it should also name a substitute Executor incase the first choice is unable to act.
It’s also advisable that someone with business or personal assets overseas seeks professional advise on how these are going to be dealt with, if they pass away. Plus, careful planning as to how any IHT is going to be paid, if applicable, can help avoid further delays.
Worried about probate?
All these reasons and more can cause the probate process to be delayed and make an often complex situation far worse, especially when it’s all happening during what’s undoubtedly a very stressful and emotional time.