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How Long Does Probate Take in The UK?


When a loved one has died, worrying about how long it’ll take to get everything sorted out is a common problem. It’s only natural to want to get everything taken care of quickly at such a stressful time.

Unfortunately, probate can sometimes take a while. It’s an understandably complicated process, with lots of legal checks at every stage of the process to ensure due diligence has been completed. So, to help prepare you for how long getting probate sorted might take, we’ve come up with this guide with all the information you’ll need to know.

What is probate, and when do you need it?

Probate simply refers to the process of sorting out the estate of someone who’s died. This means organising their assets and money and ensuring that they are given out to the right people as inheritance. This may be in accordance with a will, if there is one, or by the laws of intestacy if there is not.

It’s fairly common to need to get what’s called a grant of probate when someone dies. This is what allows you to administer the estate and take control of any assets and other inherited items legally, to then distribute them. There are a few times where you might not need probate, such as if you were married to the deceased person and all assets where jointly owned. However, it’s always worth speaking to a qualified solicitor or estate planner as you will generally need legal advice regardless.

How long does probate take?

The length of time that the probate process takes will vary depending on the level of complexity in the estate, how busy the probate registry is, and if there any disputes when it comes to the inheritance itself.

In general, expect probate to take from six months to a year. This is from the time the person passes away to their estate being totally administered, with all assets sold or distributed, all debts and accounts closed, and all money properly distributed. This won’t change even if a will was in place, as even with a well drafted will, the executors still need to apply for a grant of probate and ensure that all assets are properly administered.

Without a will, probate can take longer than this. This is because any disputes over inheritance will cause delays. This is just one of the reasons why it’s so important to have a proper will in place.

How long does each stage of probate take?

To help you plan how long getting probate might take in your situation, we’ve come up with this quick guide to how long each stage of probate might take in the UK.

Applying for grant of probate: 1 week-2 months

The process of applying for the grant of probate itself can take anywhere from one week up to two months to get sorted. There are obviously a lot of other things to take care of when a family member dies, so how long this will take depends on how well their affairs were in order and how well you know the estate.

Probate application approval: 3-6 weeks

Once you’ve made your application for probate, it generally takes around 3-6 weeks for approval. However, this can take longer if the estate is particularly complex, or the probate registry is especially busy.

Dealing with the estate: 3-6 months

Once you’ve had the grant of probate approved, you can get on with the actual business of administering the estate. For small, straightforward estates, this may be a quick process, but for large, complex ones, expect it to take up to 6 months, if not longer.

What causes delays with probate?

The last part of our guide is all about the common causes of delays with probate. These are things to watch out for as they’re the most likely to add time to the whole process.

Getting the grant of probate itself

The first common delay is with getting the grant of probate approved from the probate registry. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to avoid this, other than ensuring the complicated forms are filled out correctly and all supporting information is given. However, if the registry is busy, you may just have to wait.

Selling houses or other assets

With larger estates, a common delay is selling houses or other assets. This can take as long as any other sale, especially as in some cases it may be prudent to wait to ensure you can get market value for the asset. As anyone who’s sold a house knows, sometimes these things can take time – and sometimes things do go wrong and delay the process.

Disputes or other issues

If there are any disputes about the inheritance or the will is unclear, this can add significant delays to the probate process. Unfortunately, any disputes will generally require solicitors to be involved, and there are a number of extra processes that will need to be followed. Disputes can also mean that nothing else is able to progress with the probate, so they can cause lengthy delays.

If you need help with the probate process, speak to Face to Face Estate Planning. We can provide advice to help you simplify this complex process. Find out more about our probate services here.