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How long does it take to wind up an estate?

October 7, 2018 Wills, Executry & Probate

Death of a loved one is a deeply emotional and painful time. Having to deal with various paperwork as well as legal formalities can become too overwhelming for most people. It is therefore very common to instruct a solicitor to deal with the process of winding up an estate. With roles and responsibilities, timescales, communication as well as costs to consider, it is necessary to choose the right firm of solicitors who will ensure that the time involved in is not too excessive.

Every executry is different and the timescales vary on the size and the complexity of the estate. From the point of the initial meeting and having had an opportunity to review the paperwork relevant to the estate, your solicitor will be in a position to provide you with a rough estimate how long it will take to wind up the estate.

There are a number of factors, which can affect how long the winding up of an estate will take. Generally speaking, solicitors follow a guideline and therefore an estate is not completed within 6 months. This guideline is followed due to the fact that in some circumstances, there might be unpaid debts or outstanding bills. Prior to the settlement of the estate all debts must be paid before the executor can proceed to distribute the estate or they might be liable to settle any unpaid debts.

If the deceased person had a property or a number of properties, it is common for those to be sold. Bearing in mind that conveyancing will be involved, it can take a number of weeks before the sale will settle depending various factors involved.

Your solicitor will update you on the progression of the sale as well as provide you with information in respect of the costs involved with the conveyancing aspect of the estate.

Legal rights apply to both testate and intestate estates and are in place in order to ensure that members of families are not disinherited and that their rights to have a claim on the estate are protected.

A surviving spouse and children of the deceased can claim legal rights. Surviving children are entitled to a third of the moveable estate and the surviving spouse is also entitled to the same  If there is no surviving spouse, children are entitled to one half of the moveable estate

If the deceased person had a Will and excluded their children or spouse from benefiting from the estate, a legal rights claim can be made.

Bearing in mind that the calculation of legal rights will be necessary, it is crucial to bear in mind that this can be a time consuming process when winding up an estate and therefore it will add additional time to the process of winding up of the estate.

If someone dies intestate, an executor will need to be appointed by the court prior to making contact with any asset holders. The application costs £19 and a bond of caution will need to be obtained as well. Your solicitor will be in a position to specify how long the process will take and will keep you up to date throughout.

There are situations when the beneficiaries to the Will or to the estate cannot be located. As an executor, it will be necessary to make an attempt to locate them in order to distribute the estate in accordance with the Will and the law.

Common practice would be for the executor to make enquiries with the families and take out advertisements in a newspaper. This will therefore ensure that the executor has taken all the necessary steps to locate the missing beneficiary, ensuring that the estate is divided in accordance with the Will and the law.

When someone dies, their estate is assessed by HMRC in order to determine whether there is any inheritance tax due to be paid and if so how much it will be. Your solicitor will normally assist you with the valuations and work towards ensuring that the timescales involved are reduced as much as they can be.

When winding up an estate of the deceased, the executor may receive a letter from the DWP, which will ask for the details of the assets and liabilities of the deceased person in order to make enquiries to the estate. This therefore means that the estate should not be distributed until the DWP has made all enquires to the estate.

Enquiries are made if the deceased has received any means of benefits. The DWP will need to assess whether the deceased was entitled to receive the benefits and if they were they will check whether they have been receiving the correct payments.

It is very difficult to determine how long the process will take. Your solicitor will make enquires and provide you with a rough estimate of the timings involved.

Confirmation is a legal document from the court, which allows Executors to acquire the assets and property of the deceased estate and carry out the division of the estate. The length of time it will take for a confirmation to be granted can vary and therefore it is difficult to determine how long it will take. Your solicitor will most likely specify that it be best to allow between 3 to 6 weeks for confirmation to be granted.

A confirmation will contain an inventory of an estate. An inventory lists all items included in the estate and specifies their respective values. This is done so that it can be clear whether there is any inheritance tax due to be paid from the estate.

The court charges a fee for granting a confirmation and this depends on what the total value for confirmation of the estate is. In addition to this a fee for each certificate of confirmation will also need to be paid.

Once confirmation is granted, your solicitor will then be in a position to send the certificates of confirmation to the relevant parties and instruct them to release the deceased’s funds either directly to the executor or to the firm.

Communication is crucial during the process of winding up of an estate. With various stages during the executry, your solicitor should provide updates and inform you of the stages reached. In some circumstances, as an executor your input will be required and therefore your solicitor should also inform you when this will be necessary.

Prior to contacting your solicitor and asking them for an update, it is a good idea to consider the fact that most executries will not be charged at set rates but time in line. This therefore means that communication will be chargeable and therefore prior to making contact with your solicitor, it is a good idea to consider whether the matter is urgent or whether it can be raised during the next planned meeting.

If you are a beneficiary to an estate it is a good idea to communicate with the executor directly to obtain updates and enquire whether there is any information you should provide them with such as current address and perhaps proof of identification.

Generally speaking a beneficiary will be contacted towards the end of the winding up of the estate. This will normally be to confirm the details of how either the funds or other valuables left to the beneficiary should be transferred to them. Preference of money transfer either via a bank transfer or a cheque will need to be clarified.

As previously mentioned, how long it will take to wind up an estate is difficult to determine exactly. Some cases may prove themselves to be more complex or more straightforward and therefore normally a solicitor will not be in a position to provide a set fee for the work involved.

Firms will most likely charge time in line and therefore an executor of the estate will be provided with a terms of business and/or letter of engagement. This will specify the hourly rates of solicitors, associates, legal secretary as well as how everything will be charged. It is crucial that you will have a good understanding of this and if you are not clear on some points, you will need to raise your issues with your solicitor prior to the signing of the paperwork.

In addition to this, you should be aware of the fact that it is most likely that the solicitor fees and outlays will be deducted from the funds gathered for the estate. This is a common practice but for the avoidance of doubt, it is best to have a discussion with your solicitor to clarify the matter.

Once all of the items on the confirmation have been ingathered, your solicitor will need to prepare a cash account detailing their fees and outlays incurred during the winding up of an estate. There are firms that will refer the preparation of a cash account to either a law accountant or an auditor for an independent assessment of the fee charged by the solicitor.

After the deduction of the outlays and fees and settlement of any potential debts or bills, the cash account will specify what the money available for division is. The cash account should then specify how the funds will be divided either in terms of the Will or as intestate estate and how much each beneficiary is entitled to.

It is essential to ensure that you will not have unrealistic expectations with the timings of how long it will take to settle up an estate. There are circumstances when the estate might seem very straightforward and turn out to be complex and time consuming. Likewise, estates that seemed like they were going to be difficult and time consuming can in fact prove themselves to be less consuming than expected. Your solicitor will provide you with a rough estimate of how long the process will take as matters progress.

If you require legal advice on how to begin the process of winding up of an estate, our experienced team of solicitors at will provide you with clear and concise advice and guide you through the process in a professional and timely manner.

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