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According to the consumer watchdog Which?, while many Executors use solicitors to handle the entire probate process, around a third of probate applications are carried out by those who have opted for the DIY route.
The obvious reason for this is to save money. However, failure to follow the correct procedures could cost you dearly further down the line. Here are some factors to keep front of mind:
If things go wrong, you must accept liability
The Executors are personally and legally responsible for the Estate and beneficiaries, which means they must accept any liability if things go wrong.
The process can be time-consuming
You must be willing to invest the time to prepare the probate papers. You may also be required to attend an interview at the probate registry to obtain the grant of probate before collecting all the assets and distributing them in accordance with the Will or Letters of Administration.
If you fail to act correctly, you could be sued by one or more of the beneficiaries
As the legal Executor, you can’t afford to cut any corners. You’ll need to know how to deal with relatively technical areas such as the income tax of the deceased with HMRC. If required, you’ll also need to protect the Estate by placing an advert for creditors and minimising any tax payable.
So why should you consider instructing a solicitor rather than doing it yourself?
Some people just don’t feel capable of doing it themselves and would rather put their trust in a professional to handle matters for them. Others simply aren’t up to it emotionally. Then there are those who just aren’t willing to accept the risk in case a mistake is made.
It might come as a surprise to learn that instructing a solicitor who is a specialist in probate, taxation and administering an Estate could not only pay for itself, but also leave a greater amount of funds in the Estate to be distributed.
Solicitors will also check to see if the Will is as tax efficient as possible at the time of death, even though it may have been prepared many years earlier. If it isn’t, they will look at options available to minimise the amount of tax paid. This again often results in tax savings to the Estate which can be substantial, frequently amounting to tens of thousands of pounds saved in fact. This, in turn, is passed on to the beneficiaries.
In a recent case, we saved one of our clients more than £300,000 in tax on the Estate. So even after the payment of our legal fees, the beneficiaries of the Estate received more inheritance by instructing us than they would have done by doing it themselves.
In addition to the reasons summarised above, you should always seek legal advice if:
• The Estate is taxable
• The terms of the Will are not clear
• The person who died has left money or property in a trust
• Part of the Estate is to pass to children under the age of 18
• There is land or property abroad
• There is a business involved
• It’s likely that someone will dispute the Will
Instructing a solicitor to deal with the Probate and administration of an Estate is an investment from both an emotional and a financial standpoint. However, you need to make sure that the person you are instructing is able to demonstrate to you that they offer a service that is tailored to your needs and that all tax implications are fully considered. There are many Probate services that offer low fixed fees and promise to turn your Probate and administration around in record time. But will they ensure that the taxes that are paid by the Estate are kept to a minimum? And that the Estate is protected from any future claims? A solicitor will handle both.
My Probate team are all qualified solicitors and legal executives with many years’ experience of dealing with not only the application process, but also with taxation issues, HMRC and other third parties. They fully consider the tax implications of the Will at the time of death and ensure that you are advised of any tax saving measures available.
So, make sure you make an informed decision when deciding how to deal with the Estate of a loved one. Mistakes could cost you dearly if you make the wrong choice. Furthermore, if you are the Executor or Personal Representative, the beneficiaries would be entitled to pursue you for any loss of the Estate caused by unnecessary tax payment or failure to carry out a relevant step during the process. Just imagine if the Executors of the Estate that received the tax savings of more than £300K had failed to get this benefit for the Estate. The beneficiaries could well be knocking on the door demanding payment.
To speak to one of our legal experts for further information, simply call 0800 999 4437 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org