The Pitfalls of DIY Probate
Probate is the name
given to the process of dealing with someone’s estate when they pass away. It
includes obtaining a Grant of Probate (or other type of Grant of
representation) from the courts, which acts as proof that someone is entitled
to administer the estate. This person is known as an executor or administrator,
or more generally a “personal representative”.
Many people choose to carry out the probate process themselves; obtaining the Grant, collecting in the deceased’s assets and distributing them to the deceased’s beneficiaries. This can be an inexpensive and often successful way of dealing with the estate, but there are many considerations which the personal representative should take into account before deciding to tackle the process without professional assistance.
Of primary concern is that you understand the provisions of the Will, or indeed the intestacy rules, which govern the position where no Will was left. The law has developed over time and can be complex and personal representatives have a responsibility to ensure that all beneficiaries are considered. In fact, the personal representative would be personally liable to any beneficiaries who have lost out. There are mechanisms that can be put in place to protect against this risk, however.
Provided the probate process is dealt with quickly, it may be possible to vary the Will if all of the beneficiaries agree. It is important that any variations are dealt with properly, as otherwise there may be negative consequences such as increasing the estate’s Inheritance Tax liability.
Whilst tax may not always be payable by the estate, the personal representative will always need to complete returns to HMRC. This can be extremely time consuming and complicated especially if a full return is necessary, as this can amount to over 20 different forms. There are also considerations as to the different types of assets that the deceased owned or was entitled to, such as property held in trust, shares or foreign property. A professional who is experienced in probate matters will be able to deal with all of this quickly and efficiently.
We also recognise that families often have their problems, and conflicts of interest may arise either at the outset or during the course of the probate process. As an independent party, a professional advisor will be able to help manage any such conflicts, which can often be resolved by providing full and coherent details of the law and process.
However, where such conflicts are not resolved, a solicitor will also be able to represent you if, for example, the Will is contested. A solicitor can also assist in setting up any Trusts created by the Will, which often have their own tax and legal rules.
At Giles Wilson we aim to make our probate service good value for money, ensuring that our clients receive the best customer service as if we are helping members of our own family.