Probate Office delays

How long is the probate office currently taking?

Pre-COVID, it was possible to follow up with HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) if probate had not been granted after 10 days. However, there is now a 16-week timeframe in place before it is possible to chase the registry for an update with an application.

These delays can have significant consequences for the distribution of a deceased person’s estate.

It can lead to the following:

  • Prolonged waiting periods for beneficiaries to receive their inheritance
  • Stress, emotional anguish, frustration and financial hardship on the waiting families
  • An increase in legal and administrative costs, as the process takes longer to finalise
  • Assets and investments tied to the estate may be affected by market fluctuations

All of the above can ultimately impact the value of any inheritance and the overall value of the estate. We recognise that the Probate Office’s delays cause uncertainty and frustration for our clients. We do everything possible to ensure the smooth passage of probate applications. Please contact Sharron Edwards, Senior Manager, or a member of the Private Client team if you wish to discuss this issue further.

What needs to be valued for probate and Inheritance Tax reporting?

What assets are subject to probate?

As a guide the most common assets for probate are:

  • Property
  • Bank accounts
  • Personal possessions
  • Business assets
  • Stocks and shares
  • Cars
  • Jewellery

Any debts of the deceased also need to be established and will be deducted from the value of the estate.

Any lifetime gifts (Potentially Exempt Transfers, or PETs) made by the deceased in the seven years before death, must also be identified and recorded. Any gifts made more than seven years before the date of death will be exempt. The value of gifts made more than three years, but less than seven years before death, will be subject to IHT at a reduced rate.

Assets must be valued at their open market value. This is the price the asset might reasonably fetch if it was sold on the open market at the time of death.

Our probate service

Haysmacintyre LLP is licensed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales to carry out the reserved legal activity of non-contentious probate in England and Wales, and can therefore deal with both the probate application and IHT reporting.

For further advice and support with your probate application and asset valuation, please contact Mark Pattenden, Partner.

Probate: who should apply?

Who can request probate also depends on if there is a will in place or not. If a will has been made, one or more executors will have been named, then it is their responsibility to apply for probate. An executor can choose to forgo their right to act as an executor if they wish. This can be done in two ways:

  • The first is to hold ‘power reserved’ which allows other executors to carry out the course of probate but allows the executor to reserve the right to re-join the process later if necessary.
  • The second is where an executor may opt to give up their right to apply for probate entirely, known as ‘renunciation’, if they do not wish to be involved or are unable to.

If there is a will, the most ‘entitled’ person can apply for probate. Usually, this is the closest living relative of the deceased, namely the surviving spouse or the civil partner. HMRC has inheritance calculator to help assess who may be the closest relative, but legal advice should be sought to avoid and resolve any disputes which may arise. In the case of a will not being made, this is called a grant of letters of administration.

Once either a grant of probate or grant of letters of administration has been given, the executors are now able to deal with the deceased’s estate, in accordance with their will or the law.

For further advice and support with your probate application, please contact Mark Pattenden, Partner.

Private Client Briefing – Inheritance Tax and Probate 2023

The Nil Rate Band (or threshold) for IHT has been frozen at £325,000 since 2009, and there are currently no plans to increase it until at least 2028. Between 2009 and 2023, the average UK house price increased by more than 80%.

None of us likes to dwell on morbid thoughts, but there’s never been a greater need to plan for IHT, as the IHT receipts for the Treasury continue to increase, and more and more families are caught by the IHT net. This IHT and probate focused briefing highlights planning principles and opportunities for you to consider. This is of course an interesting time for IHT, with recent press reports suggesting that the Government may reduce the rate in the March 2024 Budget and include the plan to abolish IHT at some future date in its 2024 election manifesto. There is no certainty at this time: we recommend that you continue to plan for IHT but retain some flexibility until we can be sure any changes and any ‘replacement’ taxes.

Our IHT and probate specialists are available to assist with your estate planning, provide you with bespoke solutions to minimise your potential IHT exposure, and to ease the administrative burdens on death by dealing with the grant of probate. Please do not hesitate to contact me or any of the Private Client team, if we can assist you in any way.

Download the Private Client Inheritance Tax Probate Briefing below.

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