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How long does an executor have to wind up an estate?

When someone dies, their representative has the job of winding up their estate and finalising their affairs.

If they have left a Will, then their representative is known as the executor of their Will. If there is no Will, then the job is undertaken by their administrator, appointed in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy.

The job of winding-up an estate

The executor’s (or administrator’s) job can be lengthy and complex, particularly in the case of a larger estate.

They are responsible for collecting in the deceased’s assets and valuing them, then accounting to HM Revenue & Customs for any Inheritance Tax which is due.

They need to make an application to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate or, in the case of an administrator, the Grant of Letters of Administration. Once this is received, then the assets can be sold or transferred in accordance with the Will or the Rules of Intestacy.

This could include clearing and selling any property that the deceased may have owned, which may be time-consuming.

Completing an estate administration often takes around 9-12 months, however it can frequently be longer.

Executors are not bound to distribute funds to beneficiaries for one year. After this time, they can be required to pay interest on any cash gifts that have been left.

Delays in estate administration

There are numerous potential causes of delay in respect of an estate administration. If the deceased did not leave a Will, this could cause difficulties and some time could elapse while a thorough search is made to confirm that no Will was left. This would usually involve contacting a number of organisations, including the Law Society’s National Will Register and local solicitors. Failure to leave a Will also risks disagreement between family members, which could hinder the estate distribution.

Locating beneficiaries is sometimes an issue, particularly when a Will was written a long time before death and not updated. This could involve making an extensive search and placing advertisements in local papers.

Calculating Inheritance Tax is not always straightforward, as any cash gifts that the deceased made within the seven years preceding their death must be notified to HM Revenue & Customs and tax on them calculated and paid on a sliding scale. Establishing how much was gifted and when can be tricky and may involve going through the deceased’s financial records.

All of the deceased’s debts must be paid. Creditors have six months from the date of death to come forward and request payment. If a wide range of debts are anticipated, the executor can advertise for unknown debtors to come forwards.

When there is a delay in estate administration

If you are acting as an executor or administrator and there is a hold up in the administration, it is advisable to contact the beneficiaries and explain what the problem is. Provided there is a good reason for the delay, this should not be an issue. Interim payments can be made to the beneficiaries if the estate contains sufficient funds.

If you would like to speak to one of our expert Wills and probate lawyers about assistance with a probate, call us on 01243 216900 or email us at

Services from legalmatters during Covid-19 pandemic

Here at legalmatters, we continue to do everything we possibly can to service our existing and new clients during these very difficult times.

Our ability to provide remote services makes us stand out from the crowd. With legalmatters, your Will, power of attorney, probate, trust and tax advice, and legal services for business owners, can all be dealt with over the phone, by video conference or by email and documents are sent to you by post. We are also advising our clients on signature processes bearing in mind social distancing measures.

Meanwhile, the office continues to operate with minimal skeleton staff for the protection of our staff, clients and visitors, enabling us to still process physical documents for our clients. If you do find that you need to call into the office – for instance to have documents witnessed when it is otherwise difficult for you to arrange that with family and friends – then do please get in touch.

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