What is the cause of delay in probate applications?
There are two main sources of delay, They are the probate registry and some institutions.
The lengthy delays by the probate registry in dealing with applications for grants of probate are well documented. However this unsatisfactory situation has been exacerbated by the delays caused by certain institutions in providing information to the deceased’s personal representatives. I am referring to the information needed for them to fill in the forms to apply for a grant of representation. It is not uncommon to have to write several letters to them before obtaining the details needed for the probate forms. This could waste months of time in some cases.
What can be done to reduce these delays?
We would recommend, that the deceased’s family spend some time looking for the most up to date information about the deceased’s assets as at the date of death and then using a best estimate for probate purposes This could be time very well spent as it could get around some of the delays. This is provided the estate is not a taxable one where precise figure are essential.
What Size of estate can you apply this approach?
The important factor is if the estate is one where tax is payable. Where tax is payable then the figures must be precise to enable the tax to be calculated. Straight forward estates clearly below £325000 are likely to be those where the approach could be applied. It may also be applicable in some larger estates where the estate ,for instance goes to the surviving spouse and is exempt from inheritance tax.
Are there any other steps that can be taken to reduce delays?
In cases where a grant of probate is obtained but there is still delay in receiving payment from a particular institution the executors could make a suitable interim distribution to beneficiaries. By making an early interim payment this could help to mitigate the delays. However, the executors need to ensure all debts have been paid off first or that enough monies are retained to cover any estate liabilities.
When is it safe to do this and what could be done if the estate subsequently increases in value?
It is only safe to do this if you do have a good knowledge of the deceased’s assets and are confident that the estimates you have given are close to what the figures are likely to be as at the date of death. This is because If it turns out the estate is worth a lot more and turned out to be a taxable estate the executors would have to report this to HMRC. They would have to complete further forms and pay the inheritance tax.
How much time could be saved by following these tips?
Every case is different but you could save weeks and possibly months.
In dealing with these issues it is still really important to obtain expert legal advice from a solicitor to ensure things are dealt with in the most appropriate manner.