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What will happen when probate has been granted? How long does it take to get the estate distributed?

After receiving a grant of probate, next is to settle the estate. This means closing accounts, raising funds, paying off debts, resolving any problems with the Department for Work and Pensions, selling assets, paying taxes, and distributing the estate to beneficiaries of the will or the close relatives.

Will management can take a while, which is very frustrating for everyone involved. Once a probate or management letter is obtained, it usually takes six to twelve months to process all funds, assets and property in the estate. The length of time will depend on the complexity of the estate and whether any unexpected circumstances will occur during the management of the estate. There are many things that can affect what happens after the probate is obtained. Here are some reasons why the estate may take longer to settle than usual:

  • Have foreign assets
  • The executor could not contact all beneficiaries of the will
  • There are properties for sale
  • Important legal paperwork could not be found, such as stocks or contracts
  • The work and pensions department need to investigate the real estate
  • Bankrupt estate
  • Wills are threatened

Once you have been granted a probate or a management letter, the first thing you should do (or a probate professional on your behalf) is to send it to any financial institution that the deceased has an account with. This includes banks, mortgage brokers and insurance companies who often refuse to issue funds without this document.

Once you get the funds, you may need to pay an insured inheritance tax. In case the estate has any unknown debts, you may also need or want to post creditor notices in the Gazette, public records and local newspapers.

When financial institutions involved in the industry have already issued funds, you can continue (not necessarily in this order):

• Pay for funeral expenses

• Start paying beneficiaries

• Handling any unfinished inquiries from the Department for Work and Pensions – this step may take a long time if necessary

• Sell shares and other assets or transfer them to beneficiaries. If you have already issued a creditor notice, you should wait until the end of the minimum two-month response period.

• Pay any remaining debt

• Sell or transfer any property

• Complete any unfinished legal work, such as establishing a trust

• Pay full amount of inheritance tax and any unpaid income tax

• Complete your records and make any outstanding distributions for beneficiaries

Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice and Straits Lawyers will not be legally responsible for any actions you take based on this article.

Estate administration is a daunting task, especially when you are grieving. If you need help or you need a person to talk to about your will or probate, please feel free to send us an email to or give us a call on (08) 84109069.