What is Probate?
Obtaining probate can be a lengthy process. Probate is a term which is used to cover the estate administration process, and it has a reputation for being a drawn-out process.
The administration includes several key stages, including obtaining the grant of probate, paying out to beneficiaries, and finalising the estate. Complications and delays can arise in each of these stages, which means the probate process can prove to be a lengthier process than many executors anticipate.
When obtaining probate, the speed at which other parties respond is out of an executor’s control, but some common causes of delay can be anticipated and planned for in advance.
Once an executor has received a grant of probate they must gather in assets, pay all debts, taxes and contact all beneficiaries and creditors. They must then, prepare final accounts and distribute assets in accordance with the will.
Obtaining probate means dealing with complex paperwork, contacting the individuals and organisations involved which can be difficult and time consuming. If you are an executor who needs help dealing with an estate, our specialist solicitors at Davisons Law can guide you through the process and move you forward.
Potential problems with the Will
It may be that you are certain the person left a Will, but you are unable to find it. Maybe you have only found a copy of the will or an unsigned draft. Professionally drafted Wills that have been prepared with the help of expert solicitors are typically stored at the solicitor’s offices, which can reduce the likelihood of the original Will becoming lost. With the help of a solicitor, not having the original Will is not necessarily an overwhelming issue, but it will usually take longer to go through the probate process with only a copy of the original Will.
If the Will has been located, this could be invalid, in whole or in part. An invalid Will means that the intestacy rules must be applied and researching the family history takes time. Similarly, if the person simply did not make a Will, intestacy rules must instead be followed, and it will naturally take longer to establish these than it does to merely adhere to the terms of a Will.
Some Wills, particularly homemade Wills, can be legally unclear. Interpreting the terms of an unclear Will to the agreement of everyone concerned can prove time consuming and costly. This can lead to delays that may have been avoided with a professionally drafted Will.
The ease with which a valuation can be obtained will depend on the type of asset and the financial institution that you need to deal with. Whilst high street banks are often quick to provide information about basic current and savings accounts, it can be trickier to obtain details from more unusual investment arrangements.
Certain assets, such as artwork, antiques, collectibles or cryptocurrencies will need expert valuations, and it takes time to arrange for experts to view items.
Assets that are held overseas can also be difficult because communication is often prolonged. As other countries have their own probate rules, even once valuations are obtained for overseas assets, withdrawing the funds can require additional time-consuming steps, including the process of translating documents or even reapplying for probate in the country concerned.
When seeking probate valuations from financial institutions, it is important to be clear about what information is required. Solicitors deal with many estates and are familiar with exactly what details are needed from financial institutions in order to apply for probate, so they know exactly what to ask for.
Liaising with beneficiaries
Sometimes executors are unable to trace beneficiaries, or they cannot establish whether the beneficiary is still alive. While there are steps which can be taken to locate missing beneficiaries, this can also take significant time.
Even if all the beneficiaries have been located, there is no guarantee that they will be cooperative. Sometimes, a beneficiary may refuse to communicate, or to provide the details an executor needs to pay their share of the estate.
All the time estate funds remain undistributed, the executors cannot conclude the probate process. As an executor, you must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries.
If you are facing problems locating beneficiaries, or if you are dealing with an awkward beneficiary, our solicitors can help you to navigate the steps needed to track the person down and/or to negotiate with them.
Inheritance disputes are becoming increasingly common in the UK. This is due to a variety of factors, including wider property ownership, a greater number of blended families and longer life expectancy.
In some instances, certain people are entitled to claim for a greater inheritance if they feel that they have not been sufficiently provided for from a loved one’s estate. The probate process cannot be finalised until any such disputes are resolved which can take numerous months, or even years.
If you feel that a dispute is likely, it is best to seek legal advice as early in the process as possible to encourage a swift resolution. Usually, when someone makes a will, if they are already aware of a likely disagreement between their chosen beneficiaries, the best advice is to appoint professional executors to ensure that any dispute can be dealt with.
How can we help?
While some delays cannot be avoided, seeking legal advice early on can prepare you in advance so that you, and the beneficiaries, are able to anticipate the timescales and plan accordingly.
Solicitors are well-experienced in the complications of overseas assets, continuing payments from certain investment types, missing or difficult beneficiaries, and other factors which may slow progress. Finding legal advice at the outset will ensure that you are on the best path to dealing with the entire process as smoothly and swiftly as possible.
For further information, please contact our expert solicitors on 0121 820 0112.