It is difficult to say exactly how long the Probate process takes. In some estates, a Grant of Probate is issued within months of the testator’s death. More typically, however, it will take a year or more.
In Ireland, there is also a concept known as the Executor’s Year. This gives the executor 12 months to distribute the estate, starting from the date of the testator’s death. After this, the executor’s actions can be challenged in court.
The Probate process in Ireland
Probate is a legal process that is sometimes required after a person dies. Usually, Probate is needed if the deceased owned assets worth more than €25,000, and these assets are not passing to a surviving co-owner.
If Probate is necessary, the deceased’s assets will be frozen. They can only be accessed once a Grant of Probate has been issued by the Probate Office (or a Grant of Administration, if there is no Will). In the meantime, banks often agree to release funds to cover funeral costs, but they are unlikely to release money for any other expenses. This can be frustrating for the beneficiaries, who can do nothing but wait for the Probate process to be completed.
How long does a Will stay in Probate?
This inevitably leads to the question: how long does Probate take? You may be desperate to receive your inheritance, especially if you were financially dependent on the deceased. Unfortunately, however, there is no straightforward answer. It all depends on the circumstances. Even a seemingly simple estate can have unforeseen curveballs that create delays.
To help you understand how long Probate may take after your loved one’s death, it is useful to know exactly what the process involves.
Step 1: Locate the Will
The first step is to locate the most recent copy of the Will. This may be an easy task, particularly if the deceased left instructions during their lifetime. Otherwise, it may be necessary to go through the deceased’s possessions or contact their solicitor and request a copy.
Once the Will has been found, the executors named in the Will must be contacted and asked if they are able and willing to act. If so, the executors must begin the Probate and estate administration process. If not, they must renounce their position and an administrator must be appointed. If there isn’t a Will, Probate may still be needed. In these situations, the deceased’s next of kin must apply for a Grant of Administration instead. Executors and administrators are known collectively as ‘personal representatives’.
Step 2: Locate the beneficiaries
Next, the personal representative must contact all the beneficiaries who stand to inherit from the Will or the Succession Act (if there isn’t a Will). The personal representative must obtain PPS numbers for each beneficiary. It must also be established whether a beneficiary is bankrupt and whether he/she received many gifts from the deceased during their lifetime.
If there are few beneficiaries named in the Will, and/or all the beneficiaries live locally, this may only take a matter of days. However, a beneficiary may be missing. This often happens when a beneficiary moves abroad or was not in regular contact with the deceased. The personal representative must try to trace any lost beneficiaries using various means, such as advertising in local newspapers. If this is unsuccessful, the personal representative should get a court order, permitting the distribution of assets. This can delay the process significantly. Delays can also arise if a beneficiary does not have a PPS number.
Step 3: Calculate the value of the estate
Meanwhile, the personal representative must begin what is probably the most arduous task of the Probate process: calculating the value of the estate. This entails identifying every single one of the deceased’s assets and debts and establishing their value.
Unless the deceased left a list of their assets, the personal representative will need to conduct a detailed search of their paperwork and possessions. It is also useful to set up the mail redirection, as this will capture further information. It is then necessary to contact every bank and financial institution holding the deceased’s money to confirm the balance at the date of death. Immovable assets, such as property, will require a professional valuation.
The same exercise must be completed for the deceased’s debts. The personal representative must contact utility providers, mortgage lenders and other creditors, requesting the final account balance on the date of death.
It is vital that all the assets and debts are identified, or it will create problems further down the line. It is also impossible to move onto the next step of the Probate process until this has been completed. There is no telling how long it might take. If the estate is complex or has foreign assets, it could take upwards of six months.
Step 4: Fill out the necessary forms
Once the value of the estate has been calculated, the personal representative will then have the information needed to complete an Inland Revenue Affidavit (form CA24). This must be signed in front of a solicitor or commissioner for oaths. It is also necessary to fill out a Probate application form. This asks for details regarding the deceased, including his/her name, address, and marital status.
Step 5: Gather the paperwork for the Probate application
Then, the personal representative needs to gather the following documents:
Two copies of the Inland Revenue Affidavit
The Probate application form
The death certificate
A copy of the Will and any codicils
Other documents requested by the Probate Office, such as a copy of a divorce decree
Once this paperwork has been compiled, the personal representative is ready to actually lodge an application at the Probate Office.
Step 6: Wait for a Grant to be issued
It is then a matter of waiting for the Grant to be issued. The amount of time this takes depends on where you live in the country, and whether or not a solicitor has been used.
Solicitor applications are faster. They contain fewer mistakes and the Probate Office will typically have fewer queries regarding the application. This became apparent following research published in 2018. The figures showed that those in Dublin could expect an average processing time of 17 weeks for a solicitor application and 48 weeks for a personal application. Overall, the national average waiting time for a solicitor application was 11 weeks. However, there were regional variations. Those in Wexford waited an average of just four weeks, while those in Letterkenny waited an average of 11 weeks.
When the Probate Office is satisfied with the application, the personal representative will be asked to attend an interview, swear an oath and pay the Probate fee. After this, the Grant will be issued.
How long does Probate take in Ireland?
So, as you can see, there is no way of telling how long the Probate process might take at the outset. It all depends on how quickly the executor or administrator completes the aforementioned tasks. Then, it depends how quickly the Probate Office processes the application. You may hear of some people obtaining a Grant of Probate within months of the deceased’s death. For others, it will take years.
Using a Probate solicitor will speed up the process. A solicitor will complete the application on behalf of the personal representatives. This will be a relief, as many people do not have the time to manage the process on their own.
How long after Probate can funds be distributed?
Of course, getting a Grant of Probate is only half the job. Next, the personal representative must administer the estate. This entails gathering in the assets and paying off any debts or creditors. This includes settling any final bills, mortgages and taxes.
The personal representative should protect themselves against any potential claims by advertising for creditors in the local newspapers. These should remain in place for at least two months. Otherwise, a personal representative may be personally liable if a creditor comes forward after the estate has been distributed.
It may also be necessary to sell a Probate property or transfer it by way of assent to a beneficiary. A sale can only be closed once a Grant has been obtained. This can cause delays if a buyer has not been found or withdraws from the transaction.
Once all this has been achieved, the funds can be distributed to the beneficiaries named in the Will. Specific and cash gifts must be handed out first. The remaining assets – known as the ‘residue’ – is dealt with last. If there isn’t a Will, the estate must be distributed according to the intestacy rules set out in the Succession Act.
How long after death is a Will read in Ireland?
After a Grant of Probate has been issued, the deceased’s Will is available to the public. This means anyone can request a copy of the document.
Before this time, no one has the authority to view the Will other than the executors. The executors may share the details with friends and family members – but they are under no obligation to do so.
You may have seen films in which friends and relatives of the deceased gather for the ‘reading of the Will’. In fact, this only happens in Hollywood. If you want to know what a Will says, you must ask the executor for a copy, or you must wait until the Will is made public.
How long does an executor have to settle an estate in Ireland?
Reading this, you might be nervous about how long the Probate process takes in Ireland. The idea that you could be waiting years to receive your inheritance might be very troubling.
However, if the process does take too long, there is an action you can take. This is because, in Ireland, there is a concept called the Executor’s Year. This gives the executor of an estate 12 months to administer the estate, starting from the testator’s date of death. After this, the beneficiaries can query the executor’s actions, asking why further progress has not been made. If the beneficiaries are concerned about the executor’s conduct, a legal challenge can be raised in court.
Using a Probate solicitor
The Probate process is often long and complex. Few people choose to go through Probate alone; most instruct the services of a solicitor. A Probate solicitor can complete all the legal, tax, and administrative affairs required. This includes calculating the value of the estate, completing an Inland Revenue Affidavit, locating beneficiaries, and lodging the Probate application. This will speed up the process considerably, ensuring you do not fall foul of the Executor’s Year.