40% of people suffer mental health issues & 25% endure financial stress when dealing with probate

A woman kneeling down suffering with mental health problems

April 16, 2021

Would you know what administrative duties you would need to deal with if a family member or loved one passed away? And if you’ve been named as an executor in someone’s will, do you really know what probate is all about?

In a recent study carried out by Exizent, titled The Bereavement Index 2021*, people that have previously dealt with administrative tasks after death were questioned about their experiences.

The types of people they questioned were those who have recently experienced bereavement personally as well as legal companies and lawyers that specialise in probate and estate administration.

The main aim of this study was to get an idea of how people are affected by these legal tasks both financially and emotionally, helping identify how people can better prepare themselves for the future and the unexpected (both firms and individuals).

In our blog, we tell you what the key findings were and explain what probate is so that you can begin to consider putting plans in place for your future now, in the hope that it helps you and your loved ones avoid any stress or financial difficulty when the time comes.

Key points from the study

Here are some of the key facts and statistics from Exizent’s study that everyone should be aware of when it comes to making arrangements in the event of someone’s death:

  • Dealing with probate after death has resulted in financial hardship for 25% of people.
  • 40% of people have experienced mental health problems when administering a deceased person’s estate.
  • 61% of women were found to be more affected by stress than men (37%) when dealing with these types of tasks.
  • 36% stated that the probate process and process of administering an estate was much more difficult than they had initially thought.
  • 87% of people found the processes involved with bereavement to be stressful on some level.
  • 1 in 4 executors don’t know anything about probate.
  • 59% are not confident that the will of the person they are an executor for is up-to-date.
  • 62% of those who have previously dealt with probate know who they want to be the executor of their own will.

The above suggests that stress and financial difficulty is likely experienced due to a lack of awareness of the probate and administration processes. So could planning ahead make life much easier for us all in the long-run? 

The data also suggests the importance of writing a will and making sure it is always up-to-date, as this can make the whole probate and administration process much easier for all parties involved.

In their report, Exizent states:

“More than a third of us will be involved in the administration of someone’s estate at some point in our lives” - despite this, not many people are aware of the process and how it all works. This means it’s time to start finding out.

When is probate required? - When do you actually need it?

Everyone knows that when someone dies (say, a family member or friend), they leave behind an estate, which consists of assets such as their home, money, personal possessions, etc.

All of this needs to be dealt with and should be shared out to the right people (as stated in their will or as per intestacy rules if there is no will), and probate is the name given to refer to the legal and financial processes that are involved with this.

The executor of the deceased’s will (this could be a solicitor or other person of choice) is in charge of distributing the estate accordingly, but they need to apply for a ‘grant of probate’ first to be able to do this (either online or in person).

If no will was made (known as dying intestate), the rules of intestacy will decide who the assets within the estate will go to, which is not always in line with the deceased’s wishes.

Probate must occur whether the deceased left a will or not, but having a will definitely makes the process a lot easier and quicker.

How long does probate take?

According to Exizent, it can take an average time of five months to complete the probate process, but as stated in their study, 9% of situations take as long as one year. It all depends on the situation and any complexities that may arise.

Two-thirds of those working in the legal industry stated that a minimum of 25% of cases end up being delayed and 51% of legal firms admitted that dealing with the process took much more time than they initially anticipated.

There is no time limit for the probate process to be completed, but it’s important that you consider inheritance tax - if there is any IHT to be paid then this must be sorted within 6 months after the date the deceased passed away.

Why does probate take so long?

The reason for delays? According to Exizent’s report, 78% of probate solicitor firms say that delays are mainly due to waiting for institutions to respond.

Some other reasons for delays include:

  • Finding all relevant assets
  • General administration
  • Institutions unable to find all information
  • Dealing with the courts and drafting up legal documents
  • Someone contesting the will
  • Paying the inheritance tax bill
  • No will (or couldn’t be found) - difficulty tracing family members, etc.

There’s no denying the importance of having a will to make the whole process much smoother and less stressful - both financially and emotionally.

The CEO of Arken, David Newick, states:

“Making a will is the perfect opportunity to build good records, which are vital in easing the administration of an estate.

“It’s also important to recognise that assets aren’t static, and therefore records need to be maintained.”

So if you do have a will or decide to write one, you’ll need to remember to keep your will updated if any significant changes take place in your lifetime.

How much does probate cost?

The cost of probate can be really expensive; usually hundreds or thousands of pounds depending on the size of the estate. This is why it pays to do your research early and perhaps look for companies that are smaller and less well-known than the likes of Co-op Legal Services if you want to save on costs.

Wills.Services, for example, offer simple online probate application services and fixed-fee prices (compared to bigger companies that vary their fees). On their website, they offer transparent examples for different size estates to show you how much their services cost in comparison to others.

If you want to start putting plans in place now for probate upon your death or you want to start writing a will to ensure your assets will go exactly where you want them to, visit their website or continue to do your research to help you make an informed decision - either yourself or by taking a look at our useful guides below.

By doing this, you’ll significantly reduce the chances of your loved ones experiencing stress and financial difficulty in the future.

36% of law firms feel that the process of probate could be improved (therefore alleviating stress) if their clients communicated with them better, so bear this in mind when putting plans in place for your future, and that of your family’s.

Related guides

*To see more information from Exizent’s report, visit their official website.