Why it pays to pay for probate
Ann Christian is a partner at Yorkshire law firm, LCF Law, and specialises in assisting clients to plan and protect their assets. Here she explains the pitfalls of DIY probate.
When a loved one passes away, the administration involved for the next of kin or executor, named in the will, can become a major burden, in addition to dealing with the emotional impact of a loss.
Often the first step is to apply for a grant of probate, which is the grant of legal authority to deal with someone’s estate, including property, money and possessions, after they have died.
There’s a misconception that instructing a solicitor to deal with a deceased estate will be a waste of money and while inheritance tax forms changed substantially in January 2022, to make it simpler there is still work required to calculate the figures submitted in the probate application.
Apart from the legal and administrative process, having an experienced professional take control and deal with the estate’s formalities is often a comfort to the family at a time of emotional upheaval and change.
Like many things that look simple, complications can arise, which is why employing a professional is well worth the investment especially if there are foreign assets or inheritance tax to pay.
If someone leaves everything to their spouse, there is usually no inheritance tax to pay but the inheritance tax allowance of the first to die needs to be specifically claimed, and documents submitted to show what happened on the first death, which can be complicated.
If you decide to pay for professional assistance, you do not have to use a solicitor, but many organisations offering probate services are unqualified. Solicitors are strictly regulated, hold professional indemnity insurance and details of their costs will be provided before any work starts.
Ultimately, whether a solicitor is required depends on the individual estate and its complexities. However, we always encourage people to talk about what assistance they are looking for from their solicitor before the work starts and whether a fixed cost for the work is available, so they can make an informed choice.