George Hay Chartered Accountants were one of the first accountancy firms in the country to obtain a licence to carry out non-contentious probate work. In our monthly column, we give you an insight into the process and provide an update on what is happening in the world of probate and estates.

We have often featured delays in the probate system, that are outside of our control and  unfortunately, once again, we have to report a decline in service standards by the Probate Office.

Most applications can be submitted to the Probate Office electronically and involves completion of legal forms and a signed legal statement by the Executors.  However, it is still necessary for the original Will to be sent by post.

As an aside, we would remind you that the original Will is not returned, which some relatives find upsetting.  As we have mentioned before, and much to our disapproval, the Will is then available as a public document for anybody to inspect.

Back to the main point – the Probate Office are now saying there is a 7-week turnaround before probate is granted.

This can be frustrating since you need a grant of probate to carry out many of your duties.

That being said, an Executor takes authority from the Will and so can take immediate steps to protect the Estate. For example, quite often the deceased’s car is sold before probate is granted, as it would simply depreciate in value.

Banks vary, depending on the balance in the accounts, as to whether they will pay out without probate. The highest amount we are aware of is £50,000 by one Building Society, yet we had another that enforced a £5,000 limit. The trouble is that it only takes one institution to say “no” and a probate application then has to be made for everything.

Electronic applications aside, in certain circumstances it is necessary to apply to the Probate Office on paper. Instances where this may be necessary, include:-

  • Where an original Will has been lost and only a copy is available.
  • If a second grant is required.
  • If a person dies without leaving a Will and the application is not being made by the sole beneficiary entitled to inherit. This is difficult to achieve, the most common examples are if the beneficiary is a surviving spouse or an only child.

The current timescale for a paper application is five months. Particularly if you are looking at selling a property, and you have had to make a paper application, it is well worth advising your agent of the likely timescale.

Both of the above timescales assume, also, that the Probate Office do not raise any questions.

In addition, a period of four weeks needs to be added to either timescale if there is a need to send the Inheritance Tax form IHT400 to HMRC. This is because you are not allowed to submit a probate application until 20 working days have passed after submission of the IHT400.

Any Estate where IHT is due will need to submit an IHT400. However, even where no IHT is due an IHT400 may still be required. If you are claiming the residential nil rate band, business or agriculture property relief for example, an Inheritance Tax Return is needed.

As part of administering the process, we do ensure our clients are always aware of the timescales and take appropriate action to minimise opportunities for delay.

To talk to one of our professionals in confidence about our probate services, call 01480 426500, or to find out more about how we can support you with obtaining probate and administering an estate, visit

Authored by Director of GH Probate Ltd., Barry Jefferd.

Our Probate service is provided through GH Probate Limited. GH Probate is the trading style of GH Probate Limited. Registered in England and Wales number 9630102. Registered Office: St George’s House, George Street, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE29 3GH.

Authorised to carry out the reserved legal activity of non-contentious probate in England and Wales by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales.

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