How long does probate take in the UK?

How long does probate take

This page was last updated on 1 November 2020

How long does probate take in the UK?

This article explains all you need to know about how long probate takes in the UK.

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How long does probate take in the UK?

In general, probate takes between six to twelve months.  However, many factors affect how long the probate process is, meaning without knowing the circumstances of the individual case, asking how long probate will take can like asking how long is a piece of string.

On average, this can include up to eighty hours of work if you are using a probate specialist. Yet, on some occasions, where the estate is especially complicated, the probate process can take much longer, possibly up to several years.

What factors affect how long probate takes?

There are lots of factors affecting how long probate will take. A straightforward estate with no property can be very quick, whereas a complex estate, especially if there is property overseas will take longer.

Factors impacting the probate application progress can include:

  • If the case is contentious probate or non-contentious. Disputes will delay the process, as they may block a letter of probate and prevent the estate from being administered until the issues are resolved.
  • If there is a property in the estate. Dealing with the land in an estate is more complicated than money or physical assets.
  • If assets are held overseas. It is more complex to get hold of assets overseas.
  • How much time the executor can give to estate administration. Handling probate inevitably takes time. If the executor cannot give this time, the process will take longer. If you think this may be an issue in your case, it is worth considering instructing a probate specialist.

Here is a video that explains more about how long does grant of probate take.

Will having a will mean the probate process is quicker?

Not necessarily. However, having a will does make some aspects of estate administration easier, like knowing exactly who the executors and beneficiaries are, and how much each beneficiary should inherit.

However, often reasons for delays are related to the will. This includes:

  • Not being able to find the will. There is no national register, so searching for a missing will is very difficult.
  • If the deceased did not make helpful records of all their assets. This makes finding out what comes within their estate far more difficult.
  • If someone makes an application using the Inheritance (Family and Dependants) Act.
  • The will could be badly drafted, which means the will could make what the deceased person wanted more uncertain.
  • If the will is invalid. This could be due to it not fulfilling the formalities requirements, or it was made when the person was under undue influence, etc.
  • Whether inheritance tax is payable. If the estate is worth less than £325,000 then inheritance tax is not required, which saves time because you will not need to declare the estate to HMRC.
How long does probate take UK

Why does probate take so long?

The probate process is time-consuming and can be hugely burdensome, especially following the wake of a loved one. The reason the process takes so long is that there are complex legal and tax issues that need to be resolved.

For this to be done, the process has to be thorough and proper checks must be made.

Also, how the probate process happens makes a huge difference in how much inheritance the beneficiaries receive.

It is in everybody’s best interest that this is done correctly to prevent disputes and parties not getting what they need or the deceased wanted them to have.

"Distributing the inheritance is the last step of the probate process. In general, this will take 9-12 months after the deceased passed away."

How long does grant of probate take after death in the UK?

This is a similar question to how long the probate takes. The only other factor to consider is how long it takes for the executors or administrators to realise their role, and start applying for probate and organising the deceased person’s affairs.

This will depend on how clear the will is, and how much time the executors can give to getting probate.

How long does it take to receive money from a will?

Distributing the inheritance is the last step of the probate process. Therefore, in general, this will take 9-12 months after the deceased passed away.

Don’t forget that probate costs are often met from the estate so these will be taken before the Will is paid out.

How long does probate take once submitted?

After you have sent off your probate application, if this was done correctly and the estate is fairly simple, it will generally be about three to five weeks for the grant of probate or letter of administration to be granted.

Once you have sent off your application, you effectively have to wait, and there is very little you can do to speed up obtaining a grant of probate.

The probate registry processing times can vary based on how busy they are. If there are mistakes in your application, this is likely to slow down the process considerably, so the form must be filled out correctly.

How long this will take varies based on whether the case is urgent, and if it is taxable.

  • Urgent situations, like where the matter is going to court, can be under two weeks.
  • If the estate is not taxable, it generally takes around two to eight weeks for the application to be processed.
  • If the estate is taxable, this is likely to be around 10-12 weeks. This is because HMRC will have to review your application. If they are unhappy with anything, they will contact you and ask questions. Dealing with any queries can take multiple weeks.

When will I swear the oath and how long does this take?

At some point, the executor or administrator must swear an oath that the information in the application is correct and that they will distribute the assets according to the will and the law. You will generally be able to do the oath at your local probate registry.

After you have taken the oath, it normally takes under 10 days for you to receive the grant of probate or letters of administration.

How can I make dealing with probate faster?

Probate is always a time-consuming process, however, there are some ways you can reduce the timescales.

  • Apply for probate quickly.
  • If you are an executor or personal representative, make sure you understand your duties, so you can begin working out how the estate should be administered.
  • Pay inheritance tax quickly so you apply for probate.
  • Complete stages of the process at the same time, like applying for the grant of probate, and getting ready to collect the assets.
  • Use a solicitor or professional probate service. Errors significantly slow down the probate process, so hiring a professional can help avoid these. Also, where the estate is complicated, it may be time-consuming to understand the relevant law and tax requirements, so seeking advice may be helpful.
grant of probate

Is there a probate time limit?

There is no time limit for the whole probate process, and you may need time to grieve before beginning the probate application process. However, certain stages do have time limits:

  • Inheritance tax must be paid at most 6 months after the person died. You cannot apply for probate until you have paid inheritance tax. If you do not pay within 6 months there is likely to be financial penalties.
  • There can be a time limit for filing inheritance tax returns. If you are using an IHT400 form, this must be filed within 1 year of the person’s death. If you are using an IHT205 form, there are no time limits.


It is also important to note that as an executor you must act on behalf of the beneficiaries, and consider their best interests.

Therefore, if they think you are delaying the process unreasonably, they can apply for you to be replaced, or even sue you for not giving them their property. What is meant by probate?

Probate is the process of wrapping up and distributing a deceased person’s estate. This includes dealing with all their assets and their wishes.

What is included in the probate process?

The probate timeline is generally considered to start when an application for and obtaining grant of probate or letters of administration is made. The timeline stops at the end of the estate administration process.

What are the stages of the probate process?

There are three key stages in the process:

Stage 1

Gathering up all the documents and information belonging to the person. This includes the will and their financial information.

Stage 2

Applying for probate

Stage 3

Estate administration and distributing the assets

How long does each of the stages of probate take?

It is expected that it generally takes four to eight weeks to get together the information needed for probate, and send off the information for inheritance tax.

This will include:

  • Sourcing the will and death certificate
  • Finding out what is in their bank account
  • Valuing their property
  • Working out how much tax they owe and any other outstanding debts
  • Reporting the value of the estate to HMRC so they can calculate whether inheritance tax is due, and if so how much. This can be time-consuming, and hypothetically take up to five months.

How long does it take to apply for the letters of administration or grant of probate?

After you have calculated how much the estate is worth and reported this to HMRC, you can start obtaining a grant of probate. This gives you the legal rights to manage the estate and access all of their information.

Bank accounts often need a grant of probate before giving you access to the person’s accounts, but different banks have different probate rules.

The application generally takes four to eight weeks, and you can expect the probate registry office to take three to five weeks to give you the grant of probate.

How long does administering the estate take?

This depends on what comes within the estate and how many beneficiaries there are. In general, this takes about six to nine months and includes:

  • Paying any outstanding debts
  • Paying taxes
  • Selling property
  • Paying for the funeral
  • Distributing assets and money to the beneficiaries.

Would you like some help to get probate done quickly?

You can contact us in one of 3 ways:

  • book an appointment directly in the calendar below
  • leave your contact details and we will get in touch with you
  • call us directly on  01174039535

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Article author

Katy Davies

I am a keen reader and writer and have been helping to write and produce the legal content for the site since the launch.   I studied for a law degree at Manchester University and I use that theoretical experience, as well as my practical experience as a solicitor, to help produce legal content which I hope you find helpful.

Outside of work, I love the snow and am a keen snowboarder.  Most winters you will see me trying to get away for long weekends to the slopes in Switzerland or France.

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