Wills and Probate

5 Reasons To Instruct A Solicitor To Help With Probate

Our Solicitor, Joanne Fong, talks about why you should consider instructing a Solicitor’s firm if you are appointed as an Executor

Tempted to go it alone with a Probate Application?

Personal online probate applications are increasingly common, as the Ministry of Justice have made online applications more accessible to the general public.

However, here are some reasons why a personal applicant might want to think twice about making an application by themselves:

1. Personal liability of Personal Representatives

Did you know that Executors/Administrators can be held personally liable if they distribute an estate incorrectly or too early?

Unknown creditors can sometimes surface months after an estate has been distributed.

In addition, there are situations where disgruntled family members can make claims against an estate – for example, if they think the deceased person did not have capacity when they made their Will, or they find a more recent Will, or they feel they have not been given enough money in the Will and can make a claim under The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Executors can be held personally liable if they have already paid out the estate to beneficiaries, and a valid claim is made.

A law firm can advise you about the various methods of protecting yourself against such claims and the timing of the distribution.

2. Lack of Experience

If you have never dealt with the legal aspects of an estate, how can you possibly know that you are doing the right thing?   Have you correctly interpreted the Will? The legal language used in many Wills can be quite confusing which can lead to Executors/Administrators making incorrect distributions.

It is not just the legal formalities, many people don’t know, for example, that you must inform house insurers that the property is being left empty following a death.  There will be certain items that you are not covered for under the usual home insurance policy such as theft and escape of water.

An experienced Probate lawyer can advise on all the pitfalls and, because professional lawyers have indemnity insurance,  it means that the Executors and beneficiaries are always protected.

3. Possible Family Disputes

Grief can place immense stress on family relationships, and this can lead to disagreements, especially where money is concerned.

Experienced lawyers can ’head off’ disputes and act as a ‘buffer’ to protect Executors from accusations of incompetence, delays, and favouritism.

4. Tax and Accounts

If the value of an estate is over a certain amount, Inheritance Tax becomes payable, and if assets are sold a long time after a death, Capital Gains Tax can be an issue.  In addition, Income Tax can become payable for the administration period of the estate.

The law relating to Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax is extremely complex.  Delays in payment can lead to penalties and interest.  Lawyers who spend many years training in Tax can save families a small fortune by applying their knowledge of time limits, reliefs and post death variations.

An Executor must keep careful records of all the transactions in an estate, and the best way to do that is to keep proper written accounts.  Unless you have been trained in estate accounts, how do you know that your records would stand up in court if there are any claims against you as an Executor or Administrator?   A trained lawyer can produce professional accounts which will stand up to the tightest scrutiny.

5. Convenience

In today’s busy world, Executors and Administrators are often trying to care for elderly relatives and hold down a full- time job.  They don’t have time to spend hours trawling through the financial papers of a deceased relative and contacting the many banks and institutions, who then demand identification before they will even speak to them. At the same time, the Executors and Administrators are likely to be grieving themselves and the last thing they want to do is sit down and concentrate on all the formalities and time-consuming telephone calls and letter writing required of them.

The administration of an estate can take over a year to complete, especially if you have a house to sell.  It can be extremely time-consuming and burdensome.

Why not allow a professional to take over so that you can take time to recuperate from your loss, and spend valuable time making fond new memories with your loved ones?

At Marsden Rawsthorn Solicitors we have a team of experienced professionals who can help with your application.  We have two tiers of service – A ‘Grant Only’ service and ‘Full Administration’ service.  Call us on 0800 294 4410 or 01772 799600 for more information.

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