Probate Checklist

How long does an estate take to administer and what are the steps to be taken?

There are a number of steps to be taken in dealing with an estate and each estate can vary widely depending on the nature of the assets, the value of the estate, how quickly institutions respond to queries and also on the number of beneficiaries involved. On average we find that an estate may take between 6 to 12 months to administer.

These are some of the matters to be dealt with following a death and up to the stage of applying for a grant of probate (also known as a grant of representation):

  1. Register the death at the Registrars of Births and Deaths which should normally be registered by the registrar within five days. If a coroner is involved in the registration process, the registration can sometimes be delayed. You should obtain a number of copies of the death certificate for the various financial institutions;
  2. Plan the funeral and check if a pre-paid funeral plan has been arranged by contacting a funeral director;
  3. Locate the Will and check if it contains any funeral wishes and contact the executors if you are not appointed;
  4. Secure the deceased’s house, valuables and documents especially if the house is left unoccupied;
  5. Check if there is insurance cover for the house and contents and notify the insurers;
  6. Arrange a redirection of post;
  7. Inform the car insurers;
  8. Collect personal documents belonging to the deceased and organise a list of the deceased’s assets and liabilities and check if they made any lifetime gifts of cash or other assets;
  9. Register the death certificate with the various financial institutions;
  10. Arrange to pay the funeral expenses;
  11. Contact the deceased’s utility accounts for household bills, including council tax, gas, electricity and telephone services;
  12. Once a schedule of all the estate assets and liabilities is to hand, complete the Inland Revenue Account form, either an IHT400 or an IHT205 and lodge this within one year of the death;
  13. Pay any inheritance tax due and get a receipt from HMRC;
  14. Apply for a Grant of Probate. This usually takes two to three weeks from the date of lodging the documents with the Probate Registry.

Once the Grant of Probate is obtained the personal representatives need to carry out the following duties:

  1. Register the grant with the various financial institutions;
  2. Collect in the estate assets and pay any debts and administration expenses;
  3. Complete tax returns for the income and capital gains for the deceased up to the date of death and for the administration period until the estate is finalised;
  4. Place notices to creditors by putting a statutory advertisement (under the Trustee Act 1925 for England) in The Gazette and a local paper to protect the executor from being liable for any disclosed debts and wait for two months and one day before distributing the estate in case a creditor contacts the executors;
  5. Check there have been no claims against the estate during the six months following the issue of the Grant;
  6. Decide whether to encash assets or transfer them to beneficiaries, collect in bank account balances, sell or transfer stocks and shares and encash policies;
  7. Decide whether to sell the house or transfer it to beneficiaries;
  8. Prepare accounts to account to the beneficiaries under the Will or those inheriting on intestacy for all the estate assets, debts and expenses and calculate their entitlements and get their approval to the accounts;
  9. Trace and identify beneficiaries;
  10. Pay legacies usually within one year of death and distribute the remaining estate and obtain receipts from each beneficiary.

We recommend that estate papers are saved for a minimum of 12 years and the Grant of Probate is retained indefinitely.

What documents and papers are required following a death?

There are a number of different documents that should be kept safe as many will be needed during the administration of an estate. We’ve put together a list of documents that are required to help you know what should be kept and what can be thrown, click to download.

You can also download a copy of our Probate Checklist

For more information on administering an estate, contact a member of our team.