Navigating your way through the probate process can be daunting, especially when you’re grieving the death of a loved one. But with a little bit of guidance, you can do it without the need for a solicitor.
Appointing a probate solicitor can cost anywhere from £1,000 to £10,000, so it makes sense to do it yourself if you can.
There are, of course, some cases where it is advisable to instruct a solicitor to deal with the task, such as where there is inheritance tax (IHT) to pay, someone is looking to challenge the will or there are disputes between the executors and beneficiaries.
But in many instances, a little bit of guidance and some organisation is all you need.
What is probate?
Essentially, it’s the legal and financial processes involved in tying up the estate of a person who’s died.
If there’s a will, it’s the responsibility of the executor to deal with the process. If there is no will, the job will fall to the nearest relatives who are appointed as administrators.
If you’re an executor or an administrator and want to carry out the task yourself, read our step-by-step guide to DIY probate.
Ensuring a smooth ride
When I worked at a solicitor’s firm, my boss always used to ask clients whether the person they were choosing to be executor of their will was good at paperwork.
In my experience, organisation is everything when it comes to probate tasks. Probate isn’t necessarily a complicated job, but it does require attention to detail.
You should also take your time and do it properly. People are often in a hurry to complete the process and therefore miss things. It is particularly important to ensure that all debts are settled, especially in relation to any overpaid state benefits.
Don’t underestimate the emotional impact of dealing with a loved one’s affairs will have on you and those around you.
I recently dealt with probate for a close relative and despite having experience of dealing with probate issues in a professional capacity, I found it emotionally draining.
Make allowances for the behaviour of the other beneficiaries and executors, and for yourself. Remember that it’s OK to grieve during the process.
This should not put you off doing probate yourself, as it can often be more difficult having a stranger deal with the process – just don’t be alarmed when you feel more emotional then you expected.
Have you ever carried out probate tasks? What sort of problems did you encounter?