23 Apr Grant of Representation – what is it, why do you need it, how long does it take?
What is a Grant of Representation?
If a person dies leaving a valid Will, then the Will should (if drafted properly) name one or more persons as ‘Executors’. The Executors then consider the assets and liabilities of the deceased person, before establishing whether a Grant of Probate is needed or not. If this document is needed, then the Executors are named on a Grant of Probate which gives them the authority to administer the estate. If there isn’t a legally valid Will, various laws then determine who is the appropriate person to administer the Estate. This person is called the ‘Administrator’ and rather than obtaining a Grant of Probate, they may need to obtain a Grant of Letters of Administration (which is a similar process to obtaining a Grant of Probate). These two documents are both known as a ‘Grant of Representation’.
Why is a Grant of Representation needed?
A Grant of Representation will be needed dependent upon the type and nature of the assets in an estate. For example, some banks will release funds to the named Executor or Administrator if the amount in the account is under a certain value. If a property is involved or shares need to be sold or transferred then it is likely that a Grant of Representation will be needed.
How long does it take to get a Grant of Representation?
It very much depends on the context of each estate. For example, a smaller estate may progress a bit more quickly in terms of preparing the paperwork as there are slightly fewer factors to consider. However, a larger estate or one that involves the payment of Inheritance Tax may take longer to bring all the preparation together into a coherent application.
Once the application for a Grant of Representation is made, then in my experience it can take anywhere between 6 – 18 weeks dependent upon how busy the Probate Registry (i.e. the part of the court responsible for dealing with Grant of Representation applications) is at the time of an application.
Why have there been long delays getting a Grant of Probate?
Over the last few years there have been significant delays with probate registries handling grant applications. This has severely delayed us being able to collect in the deceased’s assets to then enable us to pay out inheritance to beneficiaries.
A recent freedom of information request by the Law Gazette has revealed that under 10% of probate applications were successful in hitting a Government target of a 10 working day turnaround since spring 2019. One reason for the significant delays were IT problems at the Probate Registry, which coincided with an increase in applications. The reason for the increase in applications was due to solicitors and others dealing with probate matters making applications before a then mooted increase in probate application fees (which in my understanding has been shelved for the moment).
The Ministry of Justice confirmed, in a freedom of information request, that the average end-to-end time for grant applications issued in December 2019 was eight weeks, which shows progress from an average of 10 weeks in summer 2019. They also confirmed in positive news that grant applications issued in December (which were not stopped because of missing documents or errors in the application papers) took an average of five weeks to arrive, which again was a reduction on the period of nine weeks in the summer. A positive was that applications applied for by solicitors and other professionals made from 27 January 2020 onwards were being dealt with within 10 working days (Source Law Gazette article 7th February 2020 link to article here)
Until these IT issues are resolved then it is unlikely that Probate Registry is going to consistently hit its target of issuing a Grant of Probate within 10 working days of an application for a grant being made. Clearly, with Covid-19 now impacting upon the ability of legal professionals and the Probate Registry to deal with matters in good time, then it is likely that further delays and complications with applications may arise. We very much do try to progress matters as quickly as we can but we are unfortunately in the hands of the Probate Registry once we have made the application.
If you would like to instruct me to deal with obtaining a Grant of Probate or administrating an estate, if your loved one has passed away, please contact me, Matthew Billingsley on 01258 444481 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matthew is a solicitor at Rutters Solicitors who have offices in Shaftesbury, Sturminster Newton and Gillingham, Dorset. We are still operating, albeit by phone, email, and video call due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Call us now on 01258 444481.