Do I need a solicitor for probate?
The short answer is no, you don’t technically need to instruct a solicitor for probate. However, the long answer is that in some cases, it may be beneficial if you do use a solicitor to help with probate.
As an executor or administrator, the legal burden is on you to correctly value the estate, collect the assets, ensure that tax and other debts are paid and that everything is distributed according to the Will.
Why do I need to apply for probate?
Probate is the legal right to handle the deceased’s “estate” (including their property, money, and other assets). You need to apply for probate in order to be able to make financial decisions, plans, and to sell the deceased’s property for instance.
How do I go through probate without a solicitor?
You can apply for probate online or via post
. In order to apply, you will need to contact financial institutions and find out the estimated value of the estate to discover whether there is any Inheritance Tax due. Then, you will need to complete and send form IHT400 and IHT421.
You will need to calculate the gross value of probate which is the added value of the estate minus the value of jointly owned assets, gifts made within 7 years before the death, overseas assets, and any assets held in trust.
When is it a good idea to instruct a solicitor for probate?
Sometimes, the estate can be complicated, especially where the Will is likely to be contested, where the Will is not clear, where money is left in a trust or where there is property abroad.
If there are a number of different types of assets involved such as a business, overseas accounts, multiple properties, and pensions, it can be difficult to accurately collect and distribute amongst beneficiaries.
Furthermore, in an age where a lot of information is now online, it is not unusual for people to have accounts with solely online financial institutions or own stocks and bonds, unknown to their families. If someone dies without disclosing these, it can be very difficult to track them down.
Executors are ultimately responsible for the correct administration of the estate and if there is an unreasonable delay or assets are not correctly distributed, then executors can be personally liable to the beneficiaries and creditors.
How can using a solicitor for probate benefit me?
Solicitors are regulated so this means that they are protected if anything goes wrong, whereas an executor is an individual without such protection. Probate solicitors also have expertise in dealing with the legal requirements and processes and can advise on tricky or contentious situations that may arise.
In addition, solicitors can deal with tasks that you may not be comfortable with completing such as calculating things like Inheritance Tax and other fees, which are not something that you want to get wrong. Gathering assets can also be tricky where the deceased’s situation is complex.
To avoid the pain of handling probate alone, it is beneficial to instruct a solicitor to help.