Finding a beneficiary in probate can cause delays of more than nine months

Almost a third (31%) of probate cases in the last 12 months have faced delays in closing an estate, research from Direct Line Life Insurance’s probate lawyers has revealed.

The most common reasons causing issues when settling an estate were; one or more of the listed beneficiaries could not be found (33%), there were difficulties proving the relationship with the beneficiary and the deceased (29%) and the executor of the will had passed away (16%).

Probate lawyers have seen a rise in these types of issues, especially increased difficulty tracking down beneficiaries, this is predominantly down to families seeing each other less regularly (47%, children and parents taking different surnames (23%) and families falling out with each other more often (17%).

Chloe Couper, business manager at Direct Line Life Insurance, said: “Organising probate can be a very stressful time for families and relatives who have lost a loved one. This situation can be exacerbated by issues which cause unnecessary delays to the process.

“This research highlights the need to discuss these complex issues with family members and for them to ensure that a will is written at an appropriate time, helping to reduce the likelihood of these issues arising.

“We would recommend that anyone going through this process checks their, or their loved one’s, life insurance policy, as they may be in a position to receive a lump sum which would help ensure legal fees and funeral costs are covered while any probate issues are resolved.”

There were 8,007 open cases of unclaimed inheritance in September 2020.