Written by Sarah Fiddy, Associate Solicitor at Spire Solicitors LLP.
Probate is the legal process for dealing with the estate of someone who has died. Before the next of kin or Executor named in the Will can claim, transfer, sell or distribute any of the deceased’s assets they may have to apply for probate.
For some people, it can be tempting to cut costs and try to complete the probate process without the help of a solicitor. Many people assume that the process is straightforward and whilst in some cases it can be, more often than not it can end up being very complicated. There are several pitfalls and problems which can arise at any point and if you are not aware of what to look for, mistakes can be made. People end up seeking legal advice to rectify errors or issues, and in many cases, this can cost more overall.
Some risks to consider are:
Validity and fraud
Sometimes a Will is not correctly executed which may mean that it is not valid and an estate should instead be dealt with under the intestacy provisions.
Occasionally there are also cases were relatives have been pressured into making Wills in a certain way and it can be difficult to deal with these issues alone.
You may be personally liable
The task of administering an estate is unpaid and can take many months to complete, however your liability does not end once an estate has been finalised.
As an executor dealing with the estate, you could be personally liable for debts which are left unpaid. If you haven’t dealt with all debts before distributing an estate, you may have to pay out of your own pocket if there isn’t enough to cover all of the debts.
Valuing the estate
As an executor, you must collect all the information regarding the assets and liabilities in the estate. This can be very time-consuming and occasionally assets and/or debts can be missed.
Values of gifts previously made by the deceased must also be taken into consideration and be factored in when calculating any tax on the estate.
Depending on the value of the estate an Inheritance Tax return may be required. A solicitor would be able to guide you as to any tax reliefs and exemptions that may be available to the estate and help to reduce the tax payable.
By using a solicitor who is experienced in this area can alleviate some of the stress and concerns throughout the process.
If you would like to discuss any points in this article further, please contact Spire Solicitors LLP on 01362 692424 for all your legal needs.