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How Long Does It Take To Get Inheritance?

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Losing a loved one is never easy, and dealing with their estate can feel like an overwhelming task in the midst of grief. When my aunt passed away last year, one of the first questions that came to mind was, “How long will it take to receive the inheritance she left me?” As the executor of her will, I soon found myself figuring out the complex nuances of probate and inheritance tax.

In the UK, the typical probate and estate administration process can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months, sometimes even longer for particularly complex estates.  However, understanding the key stages and factors involved can help you set realistic expectations and make informed decisions along the way.

Table of Contents

The 5 Key Stages of the Probate Process

These are 5 stages of probate:

  1. Registering the death and notifying relevant parties (1-2 weeks): The death must be registered within 5 days, and the funeral arrangements made. The executor should also secure the deceased’s assets and notify banks, utility companies, and beneficiaries.
  2. Valuing the estate and completing inheritance tax forms (4-8 weeks): The executor must gather information on all assets and debts to establish the estate’s value. If Inheritance Tax (IHT) is due, the IHT400 form must be completed and submitted to HMRC.
  3. Applying for the Grant of Probate (8-12 weeks): Once the IHT forms are submitted and any tax due is paid, the executor can apply for the Grant of Probate. As of June 2024, this process takes around 16 weeks due to pandemic-related backlogs.
  4. Settling debts, taxes, and other liabilities (3-6 months): With the Grant of Probate in hand, the executor can begin closing accounts, selling assets (if necessary), and paying off any outstanding debts and taxes.
  5. Distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries (1-3 months): Once all liabilities are settled, the executor can distribute the remaining assets according to the terms of the will or intestacy rule.

Inheritance Tax: Deadlines and Interest Charges

Inheritance Tax (IHT) must be paid by the end of the sixth month after the person’s death. If it’s not paid by then, HMRC will start charging interest. To minimise interest charges, the executor can make payments on account before the final estate value is known.

In exceptional cases, IHT can be paid in instalments over 10 years for assets that are difficult to sell quickly, such as property. However, interest will still accrue on the outstanding amount.

Factors That Can Delay the Inheritance Process

  • Even with careful planning, several factors can slow down the probate and inheritance process:
  • Complex estates: Large or complicated estates with multiple assets, properties, or overseas investments can take longer to value and administer.
  • Selling property: If the estate includes real estate that needs to be sold, the process can take several months, depending on the property market.
  • Locating beneficiaries: If the executor struggles to find and contact all named beneficiaries, the distribution of assets can be significantly delayed.
  • Inheritance disputes: If someone contests the will or makes a claim against the estate, it can lead to lengthy legal proceedings
how long does it take to get inheritance
If you find yourself needing to sell an inherited property as part of the estate administration process, it's essential to consider your options carefully.

Selling an Inherited Property: Time V Speed Options

If you need to sell an inherited property as part of the estate administration process, it’s essential to consider your options carefully. Each method has its pros and cons in terms of speed, certainty, and sale price:

MethodTimeframeSuccess RateSale Price
Estate Agents14-25 weeks or more51% on average95-100% of market value
Property Auctions8-12 weeks78% on average85-90% of market value
Cash Buying Companies2-3 weeks (as little as 7 days)100%70-75% of market value

While estate agents may secure the highest sale price, they also have the longest timeframes and lowest success rates. Property auctions offer a balance of speed and price but don’t guarantee a sale. Cash-buying companies provide the fastest, most certain route but typically pay below market value.

Ultimately, the best choice depends on your priorities. If you value speed and certainty over getting the absolute best price, a cash-buying company or auction may be the way to go. If you’re willing to wait for the right buyer, an estate agent could maximise your inheritance.

Tracking the Progress of Your Probate Application

Once you’ve submitted your probate application, you can track its progress online using the UK government’s probate service. Log in with the details you used during the application process.

If your application is approved, you’ll receive the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration within 16 weeks, though it may take longer if additional information is needed. With this document in hand, you can begin the final stages of estate administration and distribution.

The bottom line

In my aunt’s case, the estate was relatively straightforward, but it still took around 9 months from her passing to when I received my inheritance.

Patience, organisation, and good communication with the beneficiaries were essential throughout the journey. 

If you need to sell an inherited property, don’t hesitate to explore all your options. Whether you choose the tried-and-true estate agent route, the speed of a cash-buying company, or the balanced approach of an auction, the key is to make an informed decision that aligns with your unique circumstances and priorities. Remember, every estate is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all timeline for inheritance.

But with a clear understanding of the process and a willingness to seek support when needed, you can honour your loved one’s legacy and ensure their final wishes are carried out smoothly.

If you need a guaranteed sale, we can help.

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