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Is Probate Difficult to do Yourself?

This is a question that gets asked a lot. The simple answer is – it depends! The preparation of papers to obtain the grant of probate or grant of representation is the responsibility of the executors if there is a valid will, or if the deceased died intestate it will be the responsibility of the personal representatives (usually the next of kin).

For a lot of straightforward estates, 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, it is perfectly possible for the executors or personal representatives to complete the probate forms and apply for the grant themselves. That way they 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 appointing a professional to assist you with preparing probate forms, collecting in estate assets and paying creditors and beneficiaries can be a blessing. 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

 On the face of it this case was straightforward; the deceased’s husband had passed first leaving his whole estate to his wife and the family home worth £600,000 was now passing to the daughters. Consequently the whole estate was exempt from IHT because there were sufficient nil rate bands to cover the estate value. However because the total estate exceeded £650,000 the more complicated inheritance tax forms (IHT400 et seq) were required in order to claim the residence nil rate band and ensure that no IHT was payable on the estate. Although the inheritance tax forms are not too complicated they do ask for more information than the simpler form IHT205 and our executors (the adult daughters) 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; this time the deceased’s wife had died first leaving her whole estate to her husband, therefore the whole estate was covered by the nil rate bands. The simple IHT forms could be completed, making the process straight forward. However the executor was a family friend who had been 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 themselves from any wrangling within the family by appointing a professional firm to collect the estate assets, deal with the outstanding bills, pass the remaining funds to the beneficiaries and prepare estate accounts.

Our work lasted longer because of the post grant tasks we needed to do but the whole estate was wound up within 12 months of the deceased passing.

Estate worth £3.5 million passing to family and charitable beneficiaries

 This estate was complicated, not only by the number of assets and liabilities that needed taking account of, but also the will was worded in such a way that the charities benefitted to the extent that their legacies meant the estate qualified for the reduced inheritance tax rate of 36%. Therefore a calculation needed to be done that gave exactly 10% of the estate to charity so that not only was that part of the estate completely free from IHT but the remaining estate qualified for the 4% reduction from the normal rate.

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

To summarise, the following are some of the occasions when appointing a professional firm to deal with probate matters on behalf of the executors can prove of real benefit:

  1. The executors are themselves a close relative of the deceased (often sons or daughters) and do not feel able to cope with the work required whilst they are grieving for their loved one.
  2. The deceased’s affairs are complicated 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 needs to be valued and assessed for their entitlement for business relief.
  5. There are multiple beneficiaries and the executors want a professional firm to handle the estate monies and pass over the legacies and residuary estate to those beneficiaries.
  6. Relationships between family members are strained and the executors wish to keep a distance between themselves and the estate funds.

If you do decide to appoint a firm to help with probate we recommend you shop around to get the firm you feel you can work closely with and who offer value for money. At Friend & Grant we pride ourselves on giving a quick, responsive and good quality service at all times. Our fees are based on the time we spend on the estate affairs – we never charge a percentage of the estate value, and we give indicative 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 See terms and conditions.

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