How soon do I have to apply for probate?

10 March 2021

In England & Wales there are no time limits when applying for probate. But you might not be able to deal with your loved one’s affairs until you’ve got a grant of probate, so you might not want to delay for too long.

There are time limits and deadlines though when it comes to inheritance tax.

Time limit for probate

After a loved one dies, you’ll need to find out whether or not probate is needed. Probate is the legal process of dealing with a deceased person’s affairs. Depending on what they owned, you might need a document called a grant of probate to get the legal authority to do this.

Find out if you need probate.

If probate is required, you won’t be able to deal with your loved one’s assets until you’ve got the grant of probate from the Probate Registry. For example, you won’t be able to sell their property or withdraw funds from their bank accounts. Also you won’t be able to distribute any assets to the beneficiaries.

So, although there aren’t any time limits, you might not want to wait too long before starting the probate process. You won’t be penalised for delaying, it’s just that all these assets will effectively be in limbo, as no one will have the legal authority to manage them.

Additionally as the executor or administrator of the estate, you need to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. If you delay for too long, they will be within their rights to question this.

Time limit for inheritance tax

There is one time limit that you need to bear in mind, and that relates to inheritance tax and filing of the inheritance tax returns.

If the short inheritance tax Return (Form IHT205) is used because there's no inheritance tax to pay, there is no deadline to submit the form. However, if the long inheritance tax return (Form IHT400) is used then it must be submitted within a year of the death of your loved one.

If inheritance tax is payable, it must be paid within six months of the death. If you fail to meet this six month deadline, you could incur additional interest or financial penalties.

Again, if you are the executor or administrator of the estate, failing to submit an inheritance tax return in time could prompt the beneficiaries to complain. Beneficiaries can even ask a court to remove an executor from their role.

With our probate service we take full responsibility for getting the Grant of Probate and dealing with the legal, tax, property and estate administration affairs.

If someone has died and you need help with probate, contact us:

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