How long can a solicitor hold money after probate?

Pile of different types of money

In today’s blog, we look at the procedure involved in probate after the grant of probate is issued and give you some ideas as to the length of time that is reasonable for a solicitor to release monies to beneficiaries.

First steps in the process

Once the grant of probate or letter of administration is received, the first thing your solicitors will do is send it to any financial institutions where the deceased person had an account. This includes banks, mortgage companies, and insurance firms, who will usually refuse to release funds without this document.

As soon as your solicitor has access to the funds, they may need to pay an initial instalment of inheritance tax. They may also need or want to place a Creditor’s Notice in the Gazette, the Public Record, and local papers, in case the estate has any unknown debts.

The solicitor’s procedure after the funds have been released

When the financial institutions involved with the estate have released funds, your solicitor will go on to (not necessarily in this order):

  • Pay the bill for the funeral
  • Start paying beneficiaries
  • Deal with any outstanding enquiries from the Department for Work and Pensions – this step, if it’s necessary, can take a long time
  • Sell shares and other assets or transfer them to beneficiaries. If they have placed a Creditor’s Notice, they should wait until the minimum two-month response period is up before they do this
  • Pay any remaining debts
  • Sell or transfer any property
  • Finalise any outstanding legal work, such as setting up trusts
  • Pay the full amount of inheritance tax and any outstanding income tax
  • Finalise your records and make any outstanding distributions to beneficiaries

What is the timescale for the distribution of assets?

It is difficult to give any precise timescale for distribution of the assets especially when the sale of property and pensions are involved as there are often third parties involved. The Creditor’s Notice which is advertised in The Gazette has a two-month response period therefore beneficiaries should not expect any assets to be released during this period. After this time, the solicitor may be able to (depending on the size of the estate) start making interim payments to the beneficiaries. Your solicitor does however have a professional obligation to deal with the matter within a reasonable period of time and not to unduly delay the administration.


If you require a solicitor to deal with obtaining probate or the administration of an estate, or if you feel that your current lawyers are unduly delaying the administration, why not give one of Alexander JLO’s expert probate lawyers a call and see what we can do for you?

27 thoughts on “How long can a solicitor hold money after probate?

  1. Gary Lockett says:

    When the sale of deceased parents house is complete, does the lawyer distribute inheritance funds via cheque or bank transfer?

    • Peter Johnson says:

      Thank you for your interest in our blog Gary.

      It will depend upon the solicitor firm’s policy as to whether funds are remitted by cheque or bank transfer. Please note that there is sometimes a charge for the latter.

      It’s best to check with them.

      Peter Johnson
      Senior Partner

  2. Daniella says:

    Hi there

    I came across your blog online and wanted to seek some advice.

    I’m a beneficiary after a very long process of intestate. The accounts have been signed for and the solicitors are gathering everyone’s ID and bank details. I’ve been advised no funds will be released until all of this has been settled. Is this correct? I was originally advised it would take a couple of weeks to then be told months and I need this money to pay for something.

    • Peter Johnson says:

      Thank you for your interest in our blog.

      The short answer is that is will depend what instructions the administrator of the estate has provided to their solicitors.

      It is not unusual to wait until all beneficiaries have provided their ID and associated documents but by the same token, it is far from unheard of for each beneficiary to be paid their portion of the estate once they have satisfied those requirements.

      In the circumstances I would ask the administrator if they would be willing to release your inheritance now, rather than having to wait for everyone else.

      I hope this helps.

  3. Angel says:

    Hi who pays out to the beneficiaries after a house has been sold is it the probate solicitor or the conveyance solicitor and how long before recieving money

    • Peter Johnson says:

      Thank you for your interest in our blog, Angel.

      Whilst I cannot comment on the precise circumstances of your case as I have not seen any of the papers, I can advise generally as follows.

      On the sale of a probate property the net proceeds would usually be paid by the conveyancing solicitor to the estate’s account or to the solicitor acting on the probate rather than the beneficiaries direct. Note I do say usually as it will depend on the instructions of the executors under the will.

      As to the length of time for funds to be released it would depend upon the stage that the administration of the estate had reached and you would be best raising that question with the executors who in turn can raise it with the probate solicitors.

      I trust that this helps.

      Peter Johnson
      Senior Partner

  4. Joel says:

    Our solicitors hold money from sale of our deceased fathers house whilst waiting for inheritance tax to be paid-are we the beneficiaries entitled to the interest accrued on this money sitting in the solicitors bank account?

    • Peter Johnson says:

      Dear Joel.
       
      Thank you for your interest in our blog.
       
      The simple answer is that the estate is likely to be the one who benefits from any accrued interest so ultimately the beneficiaries will benefit.
       
      There are rules set down by the Law Society which state that a fair rate of internet must be paid by solicitors holding client’s money.
       
      I hope that this help.
       
      Peter Johnson
      Senior Partner

  5. Simon says:

    I am a beneficiary to my late Auntie, in total there are 9 of us on the Will. My brother is an Executor. In December last year my brother said that the funds were going to be distributed after the solicitor’s had done their checks on all 9 beneficiaries, meaning monies would be put into each account around December the 20th, few days later I got notification from my brother that due to Christmas Holidays, distributions would be delayed until the beginning of January. Out of the blue mid January I got an email from the solicitor’s asking ‘personal questions’ that did not relate to me whatsoever, completely having me mixed up with someone else. Since this episode I have heard know more in regards to what is going on regarding the funds, other than it is now a 3rd solicitor on the case with the previous two having left the company. I happened to work overseas currently have a temporary address also which has been verified, they have my Passport, Driving Licence and UK address information. I have never been in debt, bankrupt or money laundering, emails I send to them seem to get completely ignored.

  6. Anna Inns says:

    My mother died intestate in August 2022. My brother, the eldest of three siblings and the only beneficiaries, has dealt with the probate issues via an agreed solicitor. The sale of my parents property completed on 31st January 2024. The equity release company were repaid immediately upon completion. Ten days later, we have had no indication of receiving the remainder, after legal bills, of our inheritance. Is this a standard practice to take this long. We have has no communication. There are no other claims against the estate?

    • Peter Johnson says:

      Dear Anna

      Thank you for your interest in our blog.

      I do not consider that ten days is an excessive period though am not a party to the file so it is difficult to provide specific advice.

      The estate’s solicitors are probably now finalising the accounts and preparing the same for approval by the executor. If you have any doubts you should contact the executor and ask them to chase the solicitors for an update. Should you not hear then a request could be made by you to the firm and if this is not responded to you should make a formal complaint copied to the firm’s senior partner.

      I trust that this assists.

      • Anna Inns says:

        Many thanks for your reply Peter.
        My bother, who is the administrator, has heard not even a courtesy communication as to what happens now. We have spoken today, and as he, rightly, does not want to incurr further charges by engaging with them, he is giving them until the middle of next week to contact them if still no communications. I would advise him to suggest they do not charge for him having to prompt them to do their job.

  7. E Doyle says:

    Hello,

    My mother’s estate was distributed nine years ago, a spurious creditor contacted the executor recently and are demanding money. I thought there was a limit on claims? The executor failed to place a notice in the gazette but has charged us for legal advice on whether we need to settle the claim.

    Thanks, Emily

    • Peter Johnson says:

      Dear Emily

      Thank you for your interest in our blog.

      Whilst I do not have the full facts I can comment in general.

      There is usually a six year time limit under the statute of limitations to recover funds (though there are exceptions to documents signed as a deed).

      I would question, given the executor’s apparent failure to lodge the standard notice why they are charging you for advice at this juncture.

  8. Aileen Livesley says:

    Hello,

    I have been identified as one of the beneficiaries of a late distant family member’s estate as they died intestate.
    The solicitors have gathered the family tree and everyone’s ID and personal details. They also used a 3rd party “heir hunters” type company to assist.
    They confirmed in November 2022 they had completed their searches and all they needed to do now was get some indemnity insurance in case there was anyone they had missed.
    6 months passed and I heard nothing so I contacted them to make sure they had updated my new address and again they advised me that the indemnity insurance was again all they were waiting on. We have still not heard anything to this date.
    Why would they be taking so long – are they benefitting by holding the funds, and are they allowed to do so?

    Many thanks
    Aileen

    • Peter Johnson says:

      Dear Aileen.

      Thank you for your interest in our blog.

      Clearly, I do not have access to the file but will comment generally as follows.

      1. Your initial port of call is to the executor to try and ascertain the reason for the delay (and over a year does seem a long time).
      2. If this is unsuccessful I would suggest a formal letter of complaint to the fee earner at the solicitors copying in the firm’s senior partner. This should set out the procedures to be followed if they do not resolve your complaint satisfactorily.
      3. As to interest on the money being held, Law Society rules require the solicitors to pay this to the benefit of the estate and accordingly the beneficiaries will ultimately receive their share of the same.

      Peter Johnson
      Senior Partner

  9. Sarah says:

    Hi,
    The solicitors who are joint executors to my father’s estate have provided an overview of the process and they state a 10 month wait after grant of probate to establish any claims against the estate or unknown creditors. This obviously holds up the procedure enormously. Is this stipulated by law? Is it normal in a simple case where only a relatively small amount of money is involved and there are few beneficiaries? Also, my sister is joint executor but they are cutting her out of most of the process – is this allowed? How can she be jointly involved in the process if they dismiss her as a layman and simply ‘inform’ her of developments when they chose?

    • Peter Johnson says:

      Thank you for your interest in our blog.

      Whilst I am not party to the file I will make the following general observations.

      There is no requirement in law for an executor to wait ten months before distributing the estate. There is a general consensus among probate practitioners that the executors should lodge an advertisement in The Gazette to inform any potential creditors of the death of the deceased. This is to avoid the executors being personally liable for any undisclosed debts. Provided no claim is made within two months and one day of the advertisement then the executors have complied with their obligations and the estate can be distributed once probate has been granted and the assets called in.

      As a client of the firm your sister as co-executor should be involved in all parts of the procedure and informed accordingly. She may wish to raise the matter with the firm and if necessary escalate to a formal complaint (copying in the firm’s senior partner) if the situation does not improve.

      Ultimately your sister could appoint her own solicitors to act for her but I would suggest that you exhaust the existing firm’s complaint’s procedure first.

      Peter Johnson Senior Partner

  10. Dawn says:

    Hello
    As Executor to my fathers will, also one of the beneficiaries, do i have to put a notice in the gazette? If i do put notice in gazette and after 2 months or more down the line a creditor pops up, am i still liable as a beneficiary to pay out? Another question, how does a creditor prove he is owed any money?
    thanks Dawn

    • Peter Johnson says:

      Thank you in your interest in our blog.

      It is always advisable for executors to advertise notification in The Gazette. The reason being is that if a creditor is not informed (and Gazette notification constitutes valid notification) they may have a claim against the executors personally. The cost of placing the notice can be found here https://www.thegazette.co.uk/place-notice/pricing.

      Any debt owed by the deceased is the responsibility of the estate and therefore the executors to settle. So yes, the estate is still liable even after the two month period and this could, of course, affect your entitlement as a beneficiary.

      As to your final question, proving a debt is largely a question of fact , not law and if it came to it, the courts would consider all relevant facts before making a judgement.

      We would be happy to deal with any other matters if you would care to ema me confidentially.

      Peter Johnson
      Senior Partner

      • Jenny says:

        Peter,
        Probate has been granted on my late husband’s estate. I am the sole executor and my 4 stepchildren and myself are beneficiaries. They have been given the accounts from my solicitor and are challenging them. For 5 weeks the solicitor has not responded to the challenges. He told me he cannot pass on my legacy ,even though I have agreed the accounts. Is this accurate?

        • Peter Johnson says:

          Dear Jenny

          Thank you for your interest in our blog.

          If is difficult to comment specifically without having access to the file but may I suggest that you carry out the following as executor:-

          1. Try and ascertain the reason behind your stepchildren’s objections.
          2. Clarify with the solicitor what is being done to deal with those objections.
          3. Check the will to see if the objections have merit.
          4. See whether the solicitor is willing to release part of the undisputed sum to you and potentially the other beneficiaries on an interim basis.

          It could well be that the solicitor is seeking to protect you in your capacity as executor but as you are their client you are entitled to responses to reasonable questions and requests.

          Peter Johnson
          Senior Partner

  11. Rob says:

    Hello. I wonder if you can help. The solicitors holding my late uncles estate have hald the funds for nearly 3 years now. It is a sizeable estate.£500k. I have asked for the details of the account and the interest earned on it paid by the bank or building society where it is held. The solicitors are offering just over £2k as a fair payment of interest earned. This does not seem a reasonable figure to me. Can you give me your thoughts please

    • Peter Johnson says:

      Thank you for your interest in our blog.

      The first port of call should be to check the firm’s client care letter which should have been sent to you at the outset. This may set out any policy that the firm has on paying interest. If you accepted that position then you may have difficulty recovering any more.

      The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Accounts Rule 7.1 requires law firms to pay clients a fair rate of interest for any client monies held.

      Whilst there is so definition of what is fair and each firm will have their own policy (usually dependent on the rate of interest that they earn on client account) the rate at which you are being credited (0.2%) is dramatically less than the current Bank of England base rate of 5.25% (which is a starting point not a definitive rate of fairness).

      You are best advised to raise the low rate being credited with the firm’s complaints partner and if you cannot resolve the complaint informally to refer the matter to the Legal Ombudsman.

      Peter Johnson.
      Senior Partner

  12. Katie says:

    Our family are involved with an ongoing will and probate for a cousin. The probate has been ongoing from around 9 years and there was no will. Family have been traced around the world and we are now at the point where we are awaiting beneficiaries to provide ID. All beneficiaries have been confirmed. We’ve now been advised that the transfer of funds cannot be done until everyone has sent in their ID and there are some stragglers. Is this standard practice?

    • Peter Johnson says:

      Thank you for your interest in our blog.

      Ultimately it is up to the executors to determine when funds are released. The solicitors may be being cautious as, for example, if one of the “stragglers” ultimately fails to provide ID the whole calculations as to division of the estate may have to be carried out again at further cost to the estate.

      The executors could instruct the solicitors to make interim payments whilst the “stragglers” catch up. This would mean that part of the sum due to you (and the other beneficiaries) could be released.

      In addition don’t forget to ensure that interest on the estate funds held by the solicitors is added.

      Peter Johnson
      Senior Partner

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