Applying for probate – should you do it yourself?

It is a huge honour and a privilege to be entrusted by a loved-one to look after their affairs after they are gone. Should you `do it yourself` though or seek assistance? The main consideration to bear in mind is whether you have the time and confidence to undertake the process yourself.

Whilst it can be a hugely satisfying experience, some estates are complicated and can take between 6-9 months to administer. It is often quicker to use a professional as they are familiar with the process and don`t have to attend at the Probate Registry for an interview as you would.

Already experienced, or a simple estate?

People applying for probate themselves often have experience, or help from an experienced friend. These people account for approximately 30% of the 250,000 applications every year. An example of a simple estate would be one that doesn`t have a property and is not liable to Inheritance Tax (IHT). Nationally the average estate is £123,000 so the vast majority are not liable to IHT, but with the average value of houses in the London area being considerably higher than the national average, estates in the London area are much more likely to be subject to IHT.

A more complicated estate? Consider a professional if:

  • There’s Inheritance Tax to pay
  • There’s no will (the rules of intestacy can be complex)
  • There might be one, but you can`t find a will
  • You`re concerned about the validity of the will, the terms are unclear or you think it might be contested
  • You`re not sure where all the beneficiaries are
  • Whether there`s a will or not, part of the estate is to pass to children under 18
  • There’s unregistered land, a business, a trust or foreign land involved
  • The deceased inherited from an estate in the last two years
  • The estate is insolvent

Professional named executors

Quite often there is a professional named as an executor in the will as well as yourself. This often ties your hands in using them. They know this too, and all too often can treat this as an excuse to charge excessive fees. In these circumstances we would always recommend asking for a quote from them from the outset. If you feel it is uncompetitive you can ask them to renounce (step-down) and often they will. We can help you with this.

It can be a rewarding experience `doing it yourself` but the downside is that you can be held personally liable, both legally and financially, if you make a mistake, so often it is much better for the sake of peace of mind to get the help from someone that does it day-in day-out, who is regulated and more importantly insured in case a mistake is made.

If it’s not for you, then who to use?

If you`ve decided to use a professional, the next question is who, as the costs vary enormously depending on who you use. Call now on 01842 779983 and we will be happy to discuss your options further with you.