Legal News

The problems with DIY probate

When someone dies there are many things to do, sadly at a time of  personal crisis.

I am frequently asked what probate means.

Probate is the process of sorting out someone’s financial affairs after they have died. This includes registering the death and organising the funeral. It can also involve dealing with a house sale or  transfer of property.

There are also matters to be dealt with at the bank, potentially with an employer or with a pension . Equally there may be still outstanding taxes or debts, for example a mortgage that still needs to be paid.

Is DIY probate possible?

The simple answer is yes.

However there are cases which are not straightforward and require sophisticated legal advice.

It may be difficult to find a will, or find any people who are mentioned in a will. This is particularly important to prevent someone challenging the will when they show up months after everything has been settled!

Sometimes the wording of a will is unclear and in these cases it is sensible to take legal advice before progressing the estate.

There is also a responsibility to clear out and sell a property. Ensuring that the best price is achieved for the beneficiaries is a priority.

Banking and HMRC

It may be necessary to trace the deceased ‘s pension and bank accounts, including dormant accounts. A solicitor would also obtain historic bank statements to check transactions and ascertain whether the deceased has made any gifts which need to be reported to HMRC.

It is important to know what to do when handling the sale of shares, particularly where capital gains tax may be an issue. This leads to the most difficult aspect of the administration which is dealing with questions from HMRC. You may even find yourself in a position where you need to raise funds to pay tax.

Debts and liabilities

One of the most risky parts of a probate is making sure that all debts and liabilities are settled before any money is distributed to a beneficiary. This is not only debts incurred during the administration. There are also debts that the deceased may have incurred but that have not been brought to light until after death. If this is handled incorrectly, the person dealing with the estate may be personally liable.

Estate administration

Estate administration is a lengthy process. It can sometimes create friction between family members. One way to ease this is to appoint a solicitor to handle matters who will act impartially and independently.

There are many complicating factors that a solicitor would look out for. For example, paperwork is often handled incorrectly by a ‘DIY-er’ resulting in assets  being overlooked, the wrong amount of tax being paid and disgruntled beneficiaries.

Often it is quicker to use a solicitor. For example, a deceased’s bank can liaise with a firm of solicitors to get a bank account closed with the minimum of fuss.

How can Marsden Rawsthorn’s probate team help?

We are here to give impartial advice and help you through the process. Our team of trained professionals know the pitfalls when dealing with probate and estate administrations. Call free on 0800 294 4410.

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