If you believe that someone who has died was going to bequest something to you in their Will, you may be wondering how you will be notified and how and when it will be given to you. If you are an Executor of a person’s Will and are unsure of your responsibilities to execute the Will, the following information will bring some clarity and act as a guide to help you.
How Soon after a Person Dies should the Beneficiaries Be Notified?
There is no set legal timeframe in England and Wales within which a beneficiary of a deceased’s estate must be notified. However, to prevent unnecessary stress and confusion between all parties, this should be done as soon as possible.
Where the deceased has left a Last Will & Testament, the Executor’s appointed in the Will are responsible for contacting everyone who has in interest in the estate.
If the deceased has died Intestate (without a Will), then the authorities will appoint a person to act as the Administrator of the Estate who will be responsible for contacting potential beneficiaries.
In either scenario, the Executors and Administrators of the Estate are responsible for notifying the beneficiaries of their entitlement to a share of the estate.
There are several reasons why a person executing the Will should be contacting a beneficiary:
- To inform them that they been left an Inheritance in a Will and what that Inheritance is
- So that a beneficiary can make a claim against the estate if they believe they have not been adequately provided for
- To inform them that Probate is required before any Inheritance can be released
- To provide an opportunity for the beneficiaries to exam the Will and ask any questions they may have
- To satisfy themselves that the beneficiary is the person who has the legal rights to the assets being bequeathed
- To ensure the beneficiary
What does Probate Mean?
Probate may be required when someone passes away. It refers to the ‘Grant of Probate’, officially known as the ‘Grant of Representation’ in England and Wales and ‘Confirmation’ in Scotland.
Probate is just one part of the wider Estate Administration process. Probate provides you with the legal right to carry out the Estate Administration, including dealing with property, money, and personal possessions. As specialists in Financial, Estate and Inheritance Tax Planning it means we can help you and your family with the whole Estate Administration process, looking at the full picture, not just Probate in isolation, if that is needed.
Probate is required by law if the Estate is worth more than £5,000 in value, if the deceased owned any property, or if a financial institution (e.g. a bank or building society) needs to see the ‘Grant of Representation’ to release the funds.
Probate will not be needed if the assets were held jointly as they will automatically pass to the surviving spouse or civil partner under the Rules of Survivorship.
Do I need Probate?
A Probate Letter of Administration is needed in most circumstances to deal with an Estate that includes property. Where a house, flat or other main residence does not form part of the deceased Estate, a Letter of Administration or Probate may not be needed, and where the following principles also apply:
- The Estate comprises cash, personal belongings like a car, jewellery, and furniture
- Any property within the Estate is owned as beneficial joint tenants, as the property automatically passes to the other owner
- The deceased shared a joint bank account, as this passes to the other named account holder
- The value of money is small, usually £5,000 or less
- The Estate is insolvent and has insufficient funds to settle any outstanding debts, taxes, and expenses
- There are only certain Pension Benefits and Life Insurance policies in the Estate.
- We would always recommend you seek professional help and advice when dealing with Probate to ensure that you have clarity about and fully comply with your legal obligations and duties. Our Fixed Fee Will and Probate Services are tailored to your needs and we are pleased to offer a FREE Probate Review Meeting to help you start the process.
How long does Probate take?
On average, you should expect the Probate process to take 9 months from the date of death through to completion. Typically, we see cases taking between 6 months and a year, depending on the complexity and size of the Estate Probate is being applied to.
What if the Executor does not distribute the Estate after Probate?
An Executor has a legal obligation to execute their duties accurately and honestly. In the rare case where a beneficiary of the Estate has concerns about the conduct of an Executor, they can initially write to them asking for an account of the administration of the Estate.
Should the Executor fail to respond within a reasonable period of time, or the beneficiary is still dissatisfied with the Executor’s explanation, they can apply to the court to remove and substitute the Executor.
The vast majority of executors have been chosen by the deceased as someone they implicitly trust to do the right thing by them and to execute their final wishes. However, removing a rogue Executor can be difficult and expensive. The onus is on the beneficiaries to prove to the court that the Executor has seriously failed in their duties.
How do I get a copy of a Will before Probate?
We always encourage our Clients to tell their Executors where they can find a copy of their Will in the event of their death. This can remove a considerable amount of stress from the family at what is already a very stressful and emotional time.
Failing that, you can check with the deceased’s Will and Probate Services provider, usually a local specialist Financial and Estate Planning Firm or law firm.
The National Will Register also offers a Will search service that can be useful if the deceased had ensured their Will was registered on the database.
If Probate needs to administer on an Estate, the Will becomes a public document and anyone can apply for a copy.
How long after Grant of Probate has been made does it take to receive an Inheritance?
This will depend on the complexity of the case and the speed of the Executor, but typically the expectation across England and Wales is that beneficiaries should receive their Inheritance within 6 – 9 months.
In the rare cases where an Estate has no property, a single bank account, and no other complexities, Beneficiaries could be receiving their Inheritance within 3 months.
Where the Estate has been left Intestate, it may take the person charged with administering the Will a long time to pull all of the information together before they can submit a Probate application.
Where can I find more information about Wills & Probate?
For more information on Probate and our Fixed Fee Probate Services visit our website Probate pages or see our blog articles on this and many other topics.
Can I speak to someone about my Will or Probate case?
We offer a Complimentary Will Review or Probate Meeting to discuss your case and explain the process, so you will know how best to proceed. And because we work with one of the best Probate solicitors in the country, we can offer you the very best service, care and a fixed cost, so you’ll know to the last penny, the cost of Probate for the Estate you are dealing with.
You may also be interested in our recent post on how to exclude someone from your Will.