Unfortunately there is no easy way of fast tracking probate. There is no special process that is available to do it or extra fee that you can pay to get it done faster than normal.
Essentially there are three main stages and at various times you may be reliant on what others are doing which may cause delays. But there are some things that you can do, whether you are using a solicitor or not to keep things moving along as fast as they can.
Prepare to apply for the grant of probate
The first stage is preparing to apply for the grant of probate and dealing with any inheritance tax.
This involves finding out what assets the deceased had, valuing them and preparing the necessary probate and tax forms.
Often you will need to contact institutions like banks or building societies about this and they will need to see the death certificate. So it helps to get plenty of official certified copies of the death certificate.
Start the process as soon as you can and get a full understanding of what assets the deceased has and things like account numbers and addresses.
It is at this point that you may find that you do not need a grant of probate if the deceased held property jointly, as joint tenants, with someone else because that should pass to the surviving owner without grant. However there are two ways of owning property jointly, either as joint tenants where you both own all of it together, in which case it would pass automatically to the survivor. Or as tenants in common which means each owns a defined share and the deceased’s share would pass to whomever benefited under their Will or the rules of intestacy. If property is owned jointly as tenants in common then a grant of probate would be required. A solicitor is best placed to advise you on that.
If the deceased only had modest amounts of money in bank accounts or investments then some institutions may transfer the money to beneficiaries without them having to get a grant of probate. How much depends on the institution. Many will do this with up to £25,000, or more, but others will always require a grant of probate. It’s up to them. It’s worth finding out early what a financial institutions policy is because it may save you having to get a grant of probate at all, which would speed things up a lot.
Make the application for the grant of probate
The next stage normally is to make the application for the grant of probate and complete any tax forms, which could also involve calculating and paying some inheritance tax if any is due. There are sometimes delays at the Probate Registry and this process can take months.
Using a solicitor to make sure that all of the forms are correctly completed can be useful and save time at this point. Solicitors are used to the forms and should know what they are doing, so there is less chance of a mistake causing a delay in processing the application. Mistakes can cause substantial delays.
Collection and distribution of assets
The last stage is usually collection and distribution, which is done after you have got the grant of probate. Again, whether you are doing this yourself or with a solicitor it helps if you know or have found out where all of the assets are and who the beneficiaries are. A good solicitor should have a collection and distribution plan so that they are gathering everything as quickly as they can and know whom it should go to. The estates debts will also need to be paid so it is useful if before this point you have already got together details of what the deceased owed – which could be things like utilities, credit cards etc..
A good solicitor should keep careful records to show what money has come into the estate and been distributed out. If you are dealing with the estate yourself as an executor then you need to do that to keep track of everything and in case any beneficiary or potential beneficiary challenges anything.
At Stephensons we have a team of experienced lawyers specialising in probate matters. Although we cannot remove all of the delays which may be in the system because of who else is involved we can guide you through the process and help to avoid the avoidable delays. For a friendly and supportive, no obligation, free discussion on whether we can help you please call our Wills and probate specialists on 0161 696 6238.