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Considering applying for probate yourself? Think again

View profile for Jak Ward
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When a loved one dies, it is the responsibility of the executors to sort out their estate – their property, money, and other possessions. 

How are executors appointed?
Executor(s) are generally appointed as part of the will.  Often there will be more than one executor, but their duties will be the same – to deal with the deceased’s estate in line with their wishes. This sometimes includes making funeral arrangements and collecting any monies that were due to the deceased before distributing it.

What is probate?
Probate is the legal right to deal with someone’s property and possessions when they have died.  In most cases the executors will need to apply for probate before they can make any payments or arrangements concerning the estate.  This includes putting property on the market and dealing with investments etc.

Do all estates need probate?
Most estates will need probate to be applied for.  In some circumstances it is not necessary – generally when the estate is of limited value, or if assets were held jointly.

Can you apply for probate without a solicitor being involved?
On the face of it, you can certainly apply for probate without instructing a solicitor.  In some cases, this works very well.

There are many cases where you should consider appointing a professional to assist you with probate work, especially with the current delays and issues with the probate registry.  If there are no complications, it can take up to 16 weeks to obtain a grant of probate. In some cases, particularly if further information is required, it can take up to a year or longer.

Why should you have a professional help you apply for probate?
Applying for probate and distributing the estate can be a time-consuming process.  It can involve contacting numerous banks and building societies, and government departments, and making decisions on the deceased’s assets.

The executors will also need to ensure that any tax due to the Inland Revenue is paid correctly.

There may also be contentious issues or disputes brewing between the beneficiaries that suggest independent professional help should be considered.

The delays arise because if the probate service decide that they need further clarification on an issue or identify a mistake that has been made on the probate application, they stop work on the file and put it into another queue for processing.  This can cause sometimes frustrating delays which may have been avoided if a professional had the opportunity to review the forms before submission.

If the executors consider that indemnities and insurances do not provide the right solution, and they require more certainty, then an application to court for directions or a blessing on a particular distribution proposal may work. This does probably add the greater degree of cost, but ultimately it is the executors’ necks on the line if a wrongful distribution is made.

We help many clients every year apply for probate – they often find that having a professional on board removes much of the worry from what is already a very stressful time.  If you’d like to talk to one of our team about the help they can provide with a probate application please get in touch.