The debate over probate
Ann Christian, a partner at LCF Law and specialist Wills, Trust and Probate lawyer explains why employing a solicitor doesn’t always result in astronomical fees …and could be the best option.
I f you were to believe everything you see in the media, you might think instructing a solicitor to deal with an estate will automatically lead to an astronomical legal bill. With all the guidance available on the internet, surely there’s no need to pay for help?
In straightforward cases there may be no need to instruct a solicitor – particularly where the executor is also the sole beneficiary, and so is not accountable to other family members who may not appreciate the work involved and want their money as soon as possible!
However it is a bit like many other jobs that look simple enough to start with.
You may decide to fit a new bathroom – after all you can easily get online instructions. Unless you have plenty of time and the right tools though, you may find yourself getting part way through and then realising you are stuck.
There are often complications which can mean employing a professional is well worth the money. If there are foreign assets, or inheritance tax to pay, an experienced solicitor will be able to handle these far more easily than a lay executor who is trying their best but relying on the internet for advice.
If you do decide to pay for professional assistance to administer an estate you do not have to use a solicitor. There are many people out there offering paid help, but many of these are unqualified and unregulated.
How do you choose a good solicitor?
Professional associations such as the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and Solicitors for the Elderly require prospective members to have a certain number of years’ specialist experience in this area and pass entrance exams. Both of these organisations have details of local members on their website.
Employing a solicitor doesn’t always result in astronomical fees. Most solicitors are happy to have a discussion about an estate and to provide a no obligation quote. There are a number of factors that will affect the quote – the number of assets being an obvious one, but whether the paperwork is all in order can make a surprising difference to the amount of work needed.
The solicitor will talk through how much of the work the client might wish to do themselves. There may well be some aspects they can deal with to reduce the legal spend.
Talk to a solicitor experienced in this type of work to detail what assistance you are looking for. I will tell my clients how I can help and what the cost will be. They can then make an informed choice.