How Long Will It Take To Receive My Inheritance?

The process of administering an estate involves a number of different steps. It is not uncommon to experience delays along the way.

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By Nicola Briggs - 8th September 2021

You cannot receive your inheritance until the estate has been properly administered. This generally takes between nine and 12 months, although it can take longer in complex estates.

How long does estate administration take?

When someone dies, their beneficiaries may look forward to receiving their inheritance. However, the deceased’s estate must be administered according to the law first. Only once this has been done can the assets be distributed.

Patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to an estate administration. You could reasonably expect the administration to take between nine and 12 months, although many legal assumptions are based on the standard period of two years.

Why does it take so long?

The process of administering an estate involves a number of different steps. It is not uncommon to experience delays along the way.

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Calculating the value of the estate

To start with, the Executors or Administrators have to ascertain the value of the assets and the extent of any liabilities. This can be quite difficult where the deceased was still trading as an unincorporated trader or within a partnership. The business accounts will have to be completed to calculate the true value of the business. Income tax liabilities or overpayments need to be understood, which can mean lengthy correspondence with HMRC. Sometimes assets are situated in a foreign jurisdiction and, if there are travel restrictions, it can be very difficult to verify what is owned abroad.

Establishing entitlement

Then, the entitlement of the beneficiaries needs to be established. You may think that if there is a Will, this is clear cut. However, the validity of the Will needs to be checked, particularly with a view to seeing if it has been revoked by a subsequent marriage or by a later Will or Codicil. If an estate is administered under an intestacy, when in fact a Will exists and turns up years later, there are very nasty consequences for those who have received benefits that were not intended for them.

Dealings with HMRC

It is also necessary to get clearance from HMRC, before any assets are handed out. Death gives HMRC an opportunity to look through the wealth of a private citizen. This is primarily done through the submission of an inheritance tax account. There is a simple one and a more complex one. More and more estates are falling within the complex inheritance tax form, which contains numerous schedules that all have to be completed. HMRC does not have to accept the financial information entered onto these forms and can demand additional tax from the estate. It is important therefore to receive clearance from HMRC that they intend to make no further claim.

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Managing claims against the estate

The Executors or Administrators should also wait for a certain period of time to allow claims against the estate to be made. Such claims may be made by creditors, or by people feeling they have been left out of the Will or have not received their just entitlement.

There is a set period of time in which such claims can be made, starting from the date the Grant is issued. There are circumstances where this period can be extended, but this only happens in exceptional circumstances. However, it is important not to rely on the expiry of this time limit, but to make proper enquiry as to who may feel they have a claim. Hiding the fact that somebody has died could lead to the time limit being extended. Homemade or DIY Wills frequently cause arguments about their interpretation, as their legal meaning has not been fully understood by the deceased.

Gathering in assets

All the deceased’s assets need to be gathered in and sold if necessary. If the property market is sluggish, it could take a while to sell a house. If the market is buoyant, it may be good practice to delay selling shares.

Locating beneficiaries

All the beneficiaries named under the Will or under the intestacy rules must be located. Some beneficiaries are hard to find. If it proves impossible, insurance may need to be taken out before an estate is distributed.

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Changing the Executor

Other unforeseen circumstances can also arise. For example, an Executor may pass away or lose their mental capacity, meaning a fresh Executor has to be appointed.

Repaying overpayments and other debts

The Department of Work or Pensions may be slow to advise Executors that the person who passed away had been receiving benefits to which they were not entitled. The Executors or Administrator may become liable for these overpayments if they have distributed funds amongst the beneficiaries, some of whom will not be in a position to reimburse them because they have spent the money.

Advice for beneficiaries

If you are a beneficiary, we recommend that you put on hold your plans to spend the money that is due to you, as it will only cause you undue stress when the money is not forthcoming because there has been a hitch within the administration.

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Advice for Personal Representative

If you are a personal representative, it can be a big mistake to hand out money too soon. Executors and Administrators can face personal liability for debts that are discovered at a later date, or for claims against the estate that have been left unresolved.

However, you should note that legacies must be paid within a year of death. Interest will start to be payable from the end of the Executor’s year, which is a twelve-month window from the date of death. Interest is not payable from the date of death.

It therefore makes sense for Executors to release legacies within that year, provided you are satisfied that there will be sufficient funds to meet the liabilities. If there are insufficient funds to pay residuary benefits, the residuary beneficiaries will get nothing and the debts will start to eat into the legacies. For this reason, personal representatives may wish to delay payment of a legacy.

Speak to our solicitors

When we administer an estate, we keep our clients, the Executors and Administrators, informed of timescales. Where appropriate, we ask for their consent to keep the beneficiaries up to date.

If you need help applying for probate and/or administering an estate, contact us for a free initial enquiry.

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