Probate FAQ

Please find our answers to the probate frequently asked questions

How long does it take?

This varies depending on the type of estate. Grant of Letters of Administration can usually be obtained within six months of death – sooner if the estate is small or very straightforward. Most administrations can be completed within 12-18 months.

How do I value the estate?

You will need to write to all of the institutions where the deceased had holdings or owed money and they will provide you with the information. You will need to arrange valuations of the deceased’s property, and also their personal possessions.

Do I need to worry about gifts?

YES! The Inland Revenue needs details of all gifts made by the deceased within the last seven years of their life, particularly if they exceed £3,000 per tax year. They may need details of earlier gifts if the deceased paid any money into a trust during their lifetime. Even though a gift has been made, the value may still have to be treated as part of the deceased person’s estate. It is your responsibility as personal representative to ensure you have properly investigated any gifts made, and to whom, as the Revenue may make further investigations of their own.

What sort of paperwork does the Inland Revenue need?

You will have to complete a form which gives details of the deceased’s estate. You are signing this form to say that all the information you have given is true to the best of your knowledge, and that you have made proper enquiries to establish the information. If you deliberately withhold information, or give incorrect information because you have not made proper enquires, then you may be subject to penalties or prosecution personally.

Will I have to pay inheritance tax?

Although you will not have to pay the tax from your own pocket, as personal representative you are responsible for ensuring this is paid from the estate. The first payment is due six months after death occurs, and you will need to ensure sufficient funds are available. The Inland Revenue charges interest on any sums which remain unpaid.

How do I know who the creditors are?

Most people will make you aware if they are owed money from an estate. Funeral and testamentary expenses (such as inheritance tax) take priority, with secured debts (i.e. a mortgage) and unsecured debts (i.e. credit cards) following.

If you distribute the estate without paying off all the creditors, as personal representative you will be personally responsible for paying any outstanding sums, and then claiming monies back from the beneficiaries – tricky if they have already spent their inheritance. There is no timescale – if a creditor were to surface 3 years or 30 years in the future, you would still retain initial liability.

However, you can pass this responsibility to

the beneficiaries by placing a simple advertisement in the London Gazette, and the deceased’s local paper. Once the advertisement has expired (usually two months from when it is placed) you as personal representative you have no more responsibility.

I’ve heard of people contesting wills – do I need to worry about that?

Usually you will know very quickly if someone intends to contest a will. There are several claims which can be made, some of which must be made within 10 months of the Grant of Representation being obtained. It is advisable to check the position carefully before you distribute the estate. If a distribution is made, and a claim is subsequently made, you may be responsible for meeting the costs of that claim initially and then claiming monies back from the beneficiaries – if they still have them!


Birkett Long can help you through this

Our probate team takes full responsibility for getting Grant of Probate and dealing with the legal, tax property and estate administration affairs for you. Call us on one of the following numbers:

Colchester: 01206 217300

Chelmsford: 0124 453800

Basildon: 01268 244144