How long after probate is granted does it take to receive inheritance?

15 July 2021

For a straightforward estate with no property and a single bank account it could take as little as 3 months for beneficiaries to receive their inheritance. The majority of estates in England & Wales, though, are more complex than this.

Typically it will take around 6 to 12 months for beneficiaries to start receiving their inheritance, but this varies depending on the complexity of the estate.

There are several factors which affect the complexity of an estate and some of these can increase the time it takes for beneficiaries to receive their inheritance. Some particularly complex estates can even take years for probate to be completed.

Collecting the assets of an estate

The person responsible for administering the estate (called the personal representative) is responsible for collecting in all the assets. This includes closing any bank accounts in the name of the person who died, selling or transferring shares that they owned, and selling or transferring any property held in their sole name.

A legal document may be needed in order to carry out these tasks. This document is normally called a grant of probate if there's a Will and a grant of letters of administration if there isn't. Once this document has been obtained from the Probate Registry, an official copy will need to be sent to all of the banks and financial institutions that have asked to see it.

Generally, collecting straightforward estate assets like bank account money will take between 3 to 6 weeks. However, there can be more complexities involved with shareholdings, property and some other assets, which can increase the amount time it takes before any inheritance is received.

When it could take longer for beneficiaries to receive inheritance

Here are the most common issues that can delay the distribution of inheritance to beneficiaries:

1. Selling shares

Some assets are more time consuming to sell than others, like shares. This is because shares are often sold through a stockbroker or share registrar, which can involve a lot of paperwork. If share certificates are lost, a search will have to be carried out and replacements requested if they cannot be found.

For more information, see selling shares during probate.

2. Selling a probate property

Selling a property can also add to the delays during probate, simply because finding a buyer and completing the conveyancing often takes time.

3. Selling foreign assets

Dealing with foreign assets will add time to the probate process too. If there's a property abroad that needs to be sold, foreign estate agents and lawyers will need to be instructed. The personal representative must also comply with local laws when it comes to issuing notifications of the death and obtaining the necessary permissions to sell the property.

4. Finding missing beneficiaries

Another common cause of delay is missing beneficiaries. If a beneficiary can't be found, then reasonable investigations have to be carried out to try and find them, usually by using a tracing agent. This can happen if family members struggle to track down a beneficiary who has been named in the will, or if the deceased was estranged from their relatives.

5. Placing statutory advertisements

When someone dies with outstanding debts, their creditors can claim repayment from the estate. The personal representative can notify potential creditors of the death by placing a statutory advertisement in the Gazette and the local paper where the deceased lived. Again this can prolong the process, as the minimum time given for creditors and other potential claimants to come forward is two months.

6. Investigation by the Department for Work and Pensions

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may decide to investigate whether they have overpaid benefits to the person who died. If they have, the estate will need to repay them. This investigation will often add a further 6 to 9 months to the probate process.

7. Claiming on a life insurance policy

If an insurance policy forms part of the estate, the policy trustees often have discretion over who to pay. Often a lot of questions will be asked of potential beneficiaries and the circumstances surrounding the death.

Distributing inheritance to beneficiaries

Before the final value of the estate can be confirmed, the estate assets need to be sold or transferred, all the available funds received and any outstanding debts and expenses settled. Once this has been done, the beneficiaries can receive their inheritance.

In many cases, if most of the assets have been collected then an interim payment can be made to the beneficiaries, as long as enough funds are kept back to cover any outstanding costs. Once these final costs or disbursements have been paid, the remaining funds can be distributed to the beneficiaries.

Dealing with the administration of an estate can take a lot of time. Our experience tells us that the more time that's committed in the early stages, the easier the following stages will be.

With our probate complete service, we can take responsibility for dealing with all of the legal, tax and administrative work on your behalf.

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