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Is Probate Difficult to do Yourself?

This is a common question. The simple answer is – it depends! A DIY probate could save you money. For simple probates this might make sense but for more complicated cases this may be a costly mistake.

The executors are responsible for the preparation of papers to obtain the grant of probate or grant of representation if there is a valid will. If the deceased died intestate the personal representatives (usually the next of kin) are responsible.

For a lot of straightforward estates it is perfectly possible for the executors or personal representatives to complete the probate forms and apply for the grant themselves. For instance where all of the estate passes to a surviving spouse or civil partner or the estate value is low and no inheritance tax (IHT) is payable. That way you save the professional fees of preparing probate paperwork so that there are more estate funds to pass to the beneficiaries.

However there are many cases where you should consider appointing a professional to assist you probate work. Below are a few examples of where we have helped our clients through this process:

Estate worth £800,000 passing on second death to two adult daughters

Mary Wilson died in May 2021. This was a straightforward case on the face of it. Mary’s husband, Albert, had passed first leaving his whole estate to Mary and Mary now left the family home worth £600,000 to the couple’s two daughters, Hannah and Julia. Consequently the whole estate was exempt from IHT because there were sufficient nil rate bands to cover the estate value. However because Mary’s total estate exceeded £650,000 we needed to complete the more complicated inheritance tax forms (IHT400 et seq) in order to claim the residence nil rate band and ensure that no IHT was payable on the estate. Although the IHT forms are not too complicated they do ask for more information than the simpler form IHT205. In this case our executors, Hannah and Julia, did not want the stress of completing the forms and worrying they may have made a mistake.

We helped to complete the forms for them and probate was granted within three months of the deceased passing.

Estate worth £550,000 passing to four adult children, none of whom were executors

 Again this estate was relatively simple. Khalid Sadiq died in January 2021. His wife, Farah, had died first leaving her whole estate to Khalid, therefore the whole estate was covered by the nil rate bands. We could complete the simple IHT forms, making the process straight forward. However the executor was a family friend who Khalid had trusted with the role but did not benefit from the estate. In addition there were discrepancies in the amount of legacies passing to each child. The executor wanted to protect himself from any wrangling within the family. He therefore appointed us. We collected estate assets, dealt with outstanding bills, passed the remaining funds to the beneficiaries and prepared estate accounts.

Despite the additional work required we managed to wind up the whole estate within 12 months of Khalid’s passing.

Estate worth £3.5 million passing to family and charitable beneficiaries

 This estate was complicated. Evelyn died in December 2020 leaving a number of assets and liabilities. Also in her Will she left charitable legacies so that the charities benefitted to the extent that their legacies meant the estate qualified for the reduced inheritance tax rate of 36%. Therefore we needed to do a calculation needed that gave exactly 10% of the estate to charity. Consequently that part of Evelyn’s estate was completely tax-free and the remainder qualified for 4% reduction from the normal rate.

The executors felt out of their depth with the calculations. They appointed us to make sure the charities received the correct amounts and the tax was calculated accurately.

When should I appoint a professional firm to deal with probate matters?

The following are some situations when you might want to enlist professional help:

  1. You as executor are a close relative of the deceased and do not feel able to cope with the work required whilst grieving for your loved one.
  2. The deceased has complicated affairs so that the full set of inheritance tax forms are required.
  3. Inheritance tax is due on the deceased’s estate.
  4. The deceased owns shares in a family company that need valuation and assessment for their entitlement for business relief.
  5. There are multiple beneficiaries and you as executor want a professional firm to handle the estate monies and pass over the legacies and residuary estate to those beneficiaries.
  6. Strained relationships exist between family members and you as executor wish to keep a distance between yourself and the estate funds.

If you decide to appoint a probate firm choose one you can trust and that offers value for money. At Friend & Grant we are regulated to carry out probate work. We pride ourselves on giving a quick, responsive and good quality service at all times. We base our fees on the time spent on the estate affairs and never charge a percentage of the estate value, and we give indicative quotes or fixed fee quotes up front.

If you want to discuss anything to do with probate contact Jan Friend who will be happy to help you.

The content in this blog is correct as at 22 April 2022 and all names have been changed. See terms and conditions.

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