The 8 Key Stages of Probate

Being asked to be an Executor in someone’s Will is quite a compliment, but it can also seem rather daunting. There are cases where it is possible for the process to be quite straightforward, but equally, there are also Estates which can turn out to be much more complicated than was initially apparent, or where the situation appears straightforward to a non-professional. An Executor is also financially liable for any errors which is another reason some people choose to use a solicitor for Probate. If you are interested in learning more about the responsibilities of an Executor, Leah Chenoweth, Solicitor from our Wills, Trusts and Probate team explores this topic in a previous blog – Do I really need a solicitor for Probate? Below is an outline of the 8 key stages of Probate with an approximate timescale for each stage.

  1. Assessing the value of the Estate
    The family of the deceased provide details of account numbers and other relevant information for assets and debts belonging to the deceased to enable us to make relevant enquiries and put a value on the Estate.
    (Timeframe: within approx. 6 months from date of death, dependent on the number of assets and how quickly organisations respond)
  2. Assessing Inheritance Tax (IHT) Liability
    IHT liability is assessed and relevant forms for IHT completed.  If required, IHT due is paid in order to obtain probate. IHT is due 6 months after the date of death before HMRC begins to charge interest. Not all assets have the same IHT treatment.
    (Timeframe: 6 months from date of death)
  3. Applying for Probate
    Applying for the legal right to deal with someone’s property, money, and possessions (their ‘Estate’) when they die is called ‘applying for probate’. There are differing terms for differing scenarios and Probate is not always required.
    (Timeframe: 3-6 Months. The Probate Registry is especially slow at the moment ( May 2023) and their answerphone says that if it has not been 16 weeks since submission of the application, to ring back when the 16 week mark has passed.)
  4. Informing interested parties
    Once the Executors have received the Grant of Probate; copies must be sent to all the asset holders and to all relevant organisations to ask them to release the funds and deal with the accounts appropriately. This may involve transferring funds to another account, closing accounts, or releasing assets.
    (Timeframe: immediately on obtaining probate)
  5. Gathering assets of the Estate
    At this point any monies owing to the deceased are collected in. If any assets are to be sold, such as a house, this is the stage at which they are sold. Personal belongings may also be dealt with at this stage if required.
    (Timeframe: up to 3 months after obtaining probate, depending on how quickly organisations get back to us)
  6. Paying any debts owed by the Estate
    Once any debts have been paid from the Estate, the final Estate accounts are prepared.
    (Timeframe: Done immediately upon receipt of adequate funds)
  7. Completing any other miscellaneous work & ensure Executors duties have been fulfilled ahead of winding up the Estate
    Obtain clearance when required from HMRC that the tax position is covered off. Report to HMRC with income tax during the administration period (if required).
    (Timeframe: Dependent on scope of work involved)
  8. Distributing remaining assets
    The assets are now distributed according to the Will, or the Rules of Intestacy if no Will exists. Estate accounts detailing all monies and assets passed in and out of the Estate are confirmed by the Executors.
    (Timeframe: Dependent on the number and timely response of beneficiaries to contact)

If circumstances require it, we can advise on alternative ways to deal with the Estate to better suit beneficiaries, or help with IHT, such as a Deed of Variation. It may be better to decide upon this before applying for a Grant of Probate.

Get in touch
We hope that the above outline of the key stages of Probate has been useful. If you would like to speak to a member of our friendly and experienced team about a Probate matter, you can contact us on 01872 241408 or email