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Can you carry out probate yourself?

will and probate

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?

Comments
Guest
Carole says:
17 January 2017

I dealt with my husband’s probate in 2006. It took about 3 months & cost me (financially) very little but the emotional distress caused by incompetent financial institutions was huge.
As a company accountant I knew I was capable of doing it but was driven to do so after it took my mother’s solicitors 3 yrs & a huge (disputed) bill.

Guest

Hi Carole, I’m sorry to hear that. It’s disappointing to hear that the whole situation was made worse by the companies you dealt with.

Guest

My father was meticulous in keeping financial records. He assumed that my mother or I would use a solicitor because neither of us had much interest in finances, and left a list of questions to be passed on to the solicitor. I did the donkey work of compiling all the figures necessary, to minimise the costs and to learn about the process. The solicitor did struggle with some of the questions but eventually the process was completed, albeit at a considerable cost.

My mother died four years later and I felt confident about handling probate myself, having gained experience and this time there were no difficult questions to be answered. I filled in all the forms but then got cold feet and passed them to a solicitor, expecting a modest bill. That was not to be. 🙁 I wish I had had the confidence to do everything myself.

Guest
carole says:
17 January 2017

Wavechange
The reason I dealt with probate for my husband was because my mother’s solicitor charged a percentage of the value of her estate as well as per letter written/telephone call made etc. This I have been told is “normal” practice.

Guest

It’s over ten years ago, Carole, and I cannot remember the details, but basing the charges on the value of the estate would explain why the solicitor charged a lot for handling my mother’s estate when I had done almost all the work. I was very fortunate in not having any problems with financial institutions.

Guest

You dont bother about probate if you are poor , as the next of kin of my mother I was of coarse , liable for the funeral expenses .

Guest
Phil says:
17 January 2017

I handled the probate after my mother died and found it quite straightforward even though it took up a lot of time. There was the expected rows with a couple of financial companies and British Gas but nothing worth calling in a lawyer to deal with.

Am I right in thinking that their charges are based on the value of the estate rather than the amount of work involved?

Guest

Ben says in the Intro “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“. I regard this as a frightener to persuade the client to appoint the firm as the executor of their estate. I believe it is a better practice for the client to appoint a family member or competent friend [if suitable people are willing to act] as the executor with the recommendation that they then themselves instruct a solicitor to undertake the legal and financial work for which they have neither the skill nor experience. This means that the executor keeps an eye on the progress of the probate process and can authorise monthly bills or query them as they arise. As a second pair of eyes they might spot errors and omissions, wrong dates, misspelt names and addresses, etc, which can be troublesome to rectify subsequently. In my experience solicitors are far from infallible on the non-legal details. It also reminds the solicitor that they are under an obligation to the instructing executor and cannot just do it in their own way at their own pace without accountability other than to the wider group of beneficiaries who usually just stand back from the process and await their bequests.

Guest
Phil says:
18 January 2017

Like conveyancing this sort of work is usually dumped on the junior partner or the legal secretary.