Is there a Deadline to Complete Probate?
29 May 2019
A Personal Representative is allowed 365 days to administer the estate and distribute the deceased's assets to the Beneficiaries. This is called the Executor's Year. However, this isn't a strict deadline and complex Estates often take longer than this to complete. Providing that the person doing the work is acting in good faith and can justify the delay then this is unlikely to be an issue.
It is worth noting, however, that there are still some strict Inheritance Tax and other deadlines which must be met during the Estate administration.
What Needs to Be Done during Probate?
Probate can be a complex and time consuming process, involving a significant amount of legal, tax and administrative work. The main Executor / Administrator duties that need to be carried out include:
- Valuing the Estate
- Calculating Inheritance Tax liability
- Liaising with HM Revenue & Customs and paying Inheritance Tax
- Contacting beneficiaries
- Applying for the Grant of Representation
- Collecting in the assets and selling or transferring these
- Settling outstanding debts
- Preparing the Estate accounts
- Distributing the remaining Estate to the beneficiaries
It's important to bear in mind that whoever carries out this work can be held personally liable for any mistakes made. So, while deadlines do need to be met, it's important not to rush these steps.
When Should Probate Begin?
There's no definitive rule on how soon after death Probate should be started, but it's a good idea to begin this process as soon as you feel able to do so. You may find that you are unable to deal with any of the deceased's assets until you have obtained the Grant of Representation from the Probate Registry, and this can often take around 3 months to process, sometimes longer.
Some things that will need to be done straight after the death include registering the death, securing the property (if it's empty), contacting insurers to check that policies are still valid and notifying organisations such as the deceased's bank and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The Executors Year Explained
The person responsible for carrying out Probate is called the Executor (if the deceased left a Will) or the Administrator (if they didn't). The law, sets out an acceptable timeframe for the Executor or Administrator to finalise the administration of an estate and distribute to the Beneficiaries. This is what the Executor's Year refers to. After the Executor's Year has expired interest will become payable on any outstanding legacies.
Sometimes, however, it's simply not possible to complete the Estate administration within this timeframe. There may be an ongoing claim being investigated by the DWP, for example, or there could be delays in the sale of a property. Providing the Executor or Administrator can justify these delays and demonstrate that they are acting in the best interests of the Estate, then this is unlikely to be called into question.
If a beneficiary feels that there are unjustified delays during the Estate administration, they are legally entitled to make a claim against the Executor or Administrator. This could ultimately result in the Court removing the Executor or Administrator from their role and appointing a replacement.
Meeting Inheritance Tax and Other Deadlines
When an application is made to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Representation, then an Inheritance Tax form will need to be submitted with this application. This will include a calculation of the value of the Estate as well as a calculation of any Inheritance Tax that is due.
If Inheritance Tax is payable, then this will need to be paid (or partially paid) by the end of the sixth month after the death. If this deadline is missed, HM Revenue & Customs will charge interest on the outstanding amount up until it is paid.
If there is a chance that any of the Estate's beneficiaries may want to alter or redirect their share of the inheritance, then there's another deadline to consider. In order to redirect a share in the Estate, a Deed of Variation will need to be drawn up. This can be done at any time after the death, but it will need to be signed within 2 years of the death. If it is signed after this point, then it will not be treated as valid for Inheritance Tax purposes, which can have significant implications on the Estate's Inheritance Tax liability.
Professional Probate Support
If you're concerned about the amount of work involved in Probate, you can instruct a Probate Specialist to take care of the Estate administration on your behalf. With our Probate Complete Service, our Probate Specialists can take care of all of the legal, tax and administrative work on your behalf, ensuring that all deadlines are met along the way.