DIY Probate can cause problems

Following the bereavement of a family relative or friend some people may decide to apply for probate themselves. There are many myths and misconceptions about the process of applying for probate and what actually needs to be done to deal with a deceased person’s affairs. All too often people rely on advice from “a chap down the pub/golf course” or their own perceived knowledge. In reality an estate administration requires time, a real understanding and knowledge of the law and the legal and administrative procedure that must be followed to get it right.

A standard estate administration will normally take 6-9 months to complete when done by a professional but may take much longer if you do not know what you are doing. People try to struggle through searching books, articles and internet sites hoping that they will be able to work out what to do, forgetting that those who undertake probate are subject to the same laws regardless of whether they are a layperson or a professional, so the cost of getting it wrong can be high.

Those that deal with probate are usually either experienced professionals, families where the estate is very simple or because they want to save money. Those that want to save money, more often than not, eventually turn to professionals to fix something that they have done wrong!

So what are the problems with applying for probate yourself?

  • Not being able to obtain the correct (or any) information from financial organisations such as banks and building societies who are reluctant to respond to lay estate administrators;
  • You do not know which forms to complete or how to complete them opening up the potential of calculating the incorrect inheritance tax or not deducting various reliefs which a professional would know to do;
  • Submitting the tax form too late, there are strict timescales for delivering the inheritance tax form, if you miss it the HMRC will issue a penalty;
  • The court fee for a personal probate application is higher than the application fee through a solicitor;
  • If there is a trust in the Will you may administer the estate incorrectly or not deliver the correct trust documents to HMRC;
  • If there is no will very strict intestacy rules have to be followed (and these may not be the same that the man down the pub told you about). One of the most common misconceptions is that everything automatically passes to your husband/wife – this is not true! You need to get the estate distribution right otherwise you will be personally liable for the error of money going to the wrong person;
  • Probate can take up a lot of your time, if you are working, have a family or still trying to cope with the loss of a loved one do you really have time to deal with the formalities of probate?

Applying for probate yourself may save you some money but there are many pitfalls along the way so be very weary!

Our professional probate team can help you and take the burden off your shoulders. You can trust our team to get the job done correctly. For more information on our probate services contact or 01908 689341.

Dagmara Kulczykowska

Dagmara Kulczykowska | Partner

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