It is possible to manage probate yourself as an executor of a Will without the assistance of a solicitor. However, the legal process of administering an estate can be complex and overwhelming and an added pressure during an already stressful and sensitive time. There are substantial benefits in seeking the help of a trusted probate solicitor during this period of bereavement.
An experienced solicitor is able to navigate the arduous legalities of the case with a clear mind and impartial judgment, whilst having a compassionate understanding for your family circumstances. They provide some much needed independent and professional support during a challenging time for all involved.
Executors are personally liable:
Acting as an executor is an onerous task where you must ensure the estate is administered correctly to avoid being personally liable to the estate. For example if inheritance tax has not been paid in full, an executor could find themselves liable to pay it. This happened in the case of Glyne Harris who administered a £1.2 million estate, filing the estate return form and paying some inheritance tax. The remainder was payable on an instalment basis but Mr Harris transferred the majority of the assets to a beneficiary on the basis that the beneficiary would pay the inheritance tax. Unfortunately, the beneficiary reneged on this understanding and moved to Barbados. As Mr Harris was the executor in the estate he, not the beneficiary, was liable to pay the remainder of the £350,000 of inheritance tax.
Other advantages of using a probate solicitor:
There are also some situations where a probate solicitor is particularly beneficial, and using their expertise would help tackle pressing issues that could prove to be problematic. This can in include:
- The deceased died without a Will and the estate is complicated to administer;
- The validity of the Will is disputed;
- The deceased had dependents who were not acknowledged in the Will and may wish to make a claim on the estate;
- The estate is bankrupt;
- The estate has complex particulars, such as trust funds;
- The estate includes foreign property or foreign assets;
- The deceased resided outside of the UK;
- The value of the estate is over or near the limit of the Inheritance Tax threshold; and
- The value of the estate continues to receive a regular income
A probate solicitor can also be valuable when dealing with an estate for which the first of a couple has died. They can provide practical advice to the surviving spouse or civil partner, there may also be estate planning opportunities which may be available but must be actioned upon within a specific timeframe. A solicitor can also provide legal advice regarding the advantages of Lasting Powers of Attorney, lifetime gifting or re-evaluating a Will as the surviving partner.
There are other organisations that offer probate and administration services such as banks or online facilities, but they can be more expensive than solicitors and it is not guaranteed that they will have the specialist qualifications and security that a seasoned probate solicitor can offer. It is also worth noting that the legal fees would be payable from the estate, so it is not expected of you to front the costs of the service.
When choosing a solicitor, it is worthwhile looking at firms that are members of specialist organisations such as Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and Solicitors for the Elderly, for which Harpreet Talwar, Solicitor Director at Sutton & Co Solicitors is a full accredited member.
There are many positive and compelling reasons as to the benefits of using a probate solicitor including their expertise, professionalism, and neutrality.
However, the most persuasive case remains that you are safe in the knowledge that the final wishes of yourself or your loved ones are being carried out respectfully and legitimately.
If you require any assistance in a probate matter, we offer a free no obligation 30 minute consultation. You can contact us on 0121 448 3107.