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How long does an Executor of a Will have to settle an estate?

Settling an estate depends on the size and simplicity of the estate etc – although this depends on the size and simplicity of the estate, as well as how efficient the Executor is.  As a rule of thumb it is usual for the overall process to take between 9-12 months, although it can take longer if there are complexities involved

There is no set time for an Executor to complete the estate administration process, but there is a deadline when it comes to inheritance tax and an order that must be followed when settling an estate.

What Does An Executor Need To Do To Settle An Estate?

The Executor needs to complete the estate administration process in the right order, and in accordance with the law and either the deceased’s Will if there is one or the rules of intestacy if there is no Will.

As a guide, the Executor needs to complete the following steps:

Inheritance Tax

The first thing an Executor must do is work out the value of the estate. This can only be done once everything the deceased owned and owed has been identified and valued – including bank accounts, pensions, shares, personal belongings and assets, as well as outstanding debts. Once this has been calculated, the overall estate value can be reached.

The Executor must then decide if the estate is liable for inheritance tax or not and complete the correct form to submit to HM Revenue & Customs.

Working out the amount of inheritance tax owed, if liable, is complex given the many factors involved, such as nil-rate bands, lifetime gifts, and tax exemptions.

Payment must be made within 6 months of the deceased’s date of death, if owed.

Grant Of Probate

Once any inheritance tax the estate is liable for is paid, the Executor needs to apply for a Grant of Probate. This document gives the Executor the legal power to deal with the estate.

The Executor can apply for a Grant of Probate whenever he or she likes – there is no set deadline in England and Wales.

Assets And Debts

The Executor must locate all the assets and collect them in, once the Grant of Probate has been given. This often includes closing bank accounts, selling property, cashing in life insurance policies, and selling or transferring shares.

Once all the assets are in, the Executor needs to settle any outstanding debts. This is an important step and the Executor must ensure it’s carried out thoroughly and that sufficient time is allowed for creditors to come forward – if they come forward at a later date then the Executor can be held financially accountable for the unpaid debts.

Estate Distribution

Once all the assets and debts have been dealt with, the rest of the estate needs to be distributed to the beneficiaries.

The beneficiaries are the individuals named in the deceased’s Will or those entitled to inherit according to the rules of intestacy.

The Executor has to identify and contact all the beneficiaries. Sometimes, beneficiaries are hard to find or contact, and this can delay the whole process.

Once all the beneficiaries have been contacted, the estate is distributed according to the wishes of the deceased as declared in the Will or in accordance with the rules of intestacy.

What Is An Unreasonable Amount Of Time?

While probate is a complex and often lengthy process, there are times when an Executor can be accused of taking an unreasonable amount of time to complete the administration of an estate.

Executors are obliged to complete the estate administration process in the best interests of the beneficiaries and should keep them updated throughout as well as respond to any queries.

If a beneficiary believes an Executor is taking too long, he or she should speak to the Executor and find out the reason for the delay – often there is a reasonable explanation for the delay, such as a failure to sell property or having to collect in overseas assets.

Beneficiaries have a legal right to claim against an Executor if they feel he or she is not fulfilling their duties properly. This can lead to an Executor being replaced or a claim being made against them for a breach of duty.

How We Can Help You With Probate  

We can help you if you are the Executor of an estate or a beneficiary, and have the professional knowledge and understanding to resolve your issue quickly and effectively.

We can assist Executors with all the legal, tax and administrative work involved in the administration of an estate, and provide expert legal assistance throughout to help make the process as straightforward and stress-free as possible. Similarly, we can help beneficiaries in need of legal guidance when it comes to the duties of an Executor and what a reasonable amount of time for settling an estate is.

To speak to one of our specialist solicitors about the duties of an Executor or for professional help with administering an estate, contact us on 0800 988 3674 or Tel: 01244 311 633 or email advice@bartletts.co.uk