How to navigate the pitfalls of probate

Probate is the legal process of administering an individual’s estate after their death. While probate is a necessary and important step in settling an estate, it can come with several potential pitfalls and challenges.

This guide looks at the common pitfalls, and how to be best prepared for applying for probate, and what you can do should probate be delayed.

So, what are the main pitfalls to be aware of?


The probate process is expensive. Legal fees, court fees, and other administrative expenses can eat into the estate’s assets, reducing what beneficiaries ultimately receive.


Probate can be time-consuming, with the process in the UK taking several months or even longer to complete. Delays can occur due to court backlogs, disputes, inefficiencies in the system, and the complexity of an estate.

The Courts and Tribunals service, a service managed by the Ministry of Justice, has been experiencing a backlog of cases for many years.

At the time of writing, in October 2023, the waiting time can be up to 22 weeks.

Changes in legislation or regulations can also affect processing times, as staff may need to adapt to new requirements.

To get the most accurate and up-to-date information on current processing times for the grant of probate, visit the official government website, where you can also download probate forms.

If unsure you can always contact a legal professional who can provide you with the latest information and guidance specific to your situation.

Loss of Privacy:

Probate is a public process, and the details of the estate become part of the public record. This lack of privacy can be a concern for some individuals and families.

Conflict and Disputes:

Disputes among beneficiaries, challenges to the will and family conflicts can arise during the probate process.

Complexity of the Estate:

The complexity of the deceased person’s estate can also impact the probate process. Estates with multiple assets, debts, and beneficiaries may take longer to settle.

    How can you expedite the probate process?

    To help expedite the probate process, it’s crucial to be one step ahead and keep in mind that some strategies may make the process easier for you:

    Organise necessary documents and financial information.

    By gathering and organising financial information and asset details, you can have a clear inventory of the deceased persons assets and debts which will make the process more efficient. This will include compiling a detailed list of the deceased persons assets and liabilities, including bank accounts, real estate, investments, debts, and other financial information. By managing debts and claims, creditors can be notified of the death, and debts can be resolved where necessary.

    Accurate and complete documentation

    Ensure that all required documents are submitted accurately and that any disputes or complications are resolved as quickly as possible. This includes the will, death certificate, asset information, and beneficiary details. Incomplete paperwork can lead to delays.

    Determine whether inheritance tax is due

    Executors need to give HM Revenue and Customs an estimate of the value of the estate and this handy link will take you through the relevant steps:

    Inheritance tax must be paid at the end of the sixth month after the person’s death. After this, HMRC will start charging interest.

    Open communication with beneficiaries

    Keeping beneficiaries informed can prevent disputes and delays. Good estate planning can help minimise the potential for conflicts further down the line.

    Stay informed

    By staying informed about the current processing times in your specific jurisdiction and reaching out to the relevant tribunal service for updates, this can help manage both yours and others’ expectations.

    What should I do if probate in the UK is delayed?

    Contact the Probate Service

    Many probate applications get delayed in the UK and judging by the many complaints that are made, it does suggest a system under pressure. Dealing with probate can seem more arduous especially when the bereaved person is experiencing grief and sadness at a very difficult time.

    There are several ways to contact the probate service:

    You are advised to chase the probate service after 16 weeks for updates. Alternative routes, should the probate service fail to respond, would be to contact your local MP.

    Consider legal advice

    If delays are due to disputes, legal complexities, or challenges to the will, it may be necessary to seek legal advice or representation to navigate the issues effectively.