Beware the dangers of DIY probate

Most of us know of someone who has attempted a DIY task around the home, only to find that their lack of expert knowledge results in a bigger problem which necessitates an emergency call to a tradesman to fix the issue!

Dealing with probate after the death of a loved one can result in similar problems. Whilst it is tempting to consider DIY probate in order to save money, in the long run it could end up costing you considerably more.

Here, we explain the potential pitfalls of DIY probate:

What does the probate process involve?

Probate refers to the process of settling a deceased person’s financial affairs. This includes registering the death, arranging the funeral, handling property transactions, addressing bank matters, and possibly dealing with an employer or pension.

Additionally, any outstanding taxes or debts, such as an ongoing mortgage, must be resolved.

While DIY probate is possible, certain situations necessitate expert legal guidance. Complications may arise in locating a Will, identifying individuals mentioned in the Will, or interpreting unclear wording.

Executors must also ensure that property and any personal items with a resaleable value that have not specifically been left to a named person in the Will, are sold at the best possible price as this can also lead to probate disputes amongst beneficiaries.

Banking and Tax Matters

Tracing the deceased’s pension and bank accounts, including dormant ones, might be necessary. A solicitor can help obtain historical bank statements, scrutinise transactions, and identify any reportable gifts to the tax authority.

Handling share sales, especially when Capital Gains Tax is a concern, requires specialist knowledge. The most challenging aspect of estate administration is often dealing with HMRC, which may involve raising funds to pay taxes.

Dealing with Debts and Liabilities

A crucial aspect of probate is settling all debts and liabilities before distributing funds to beneficiaries. This includes not only debts incurred during the administration process but also those that emerge after the deceased’s passing.

Mishandling this aspect may result in personal liability for the individual managing the estate.

The Role of Estate Administration

Estate administration can be a lengthy and contentious process, sometimes causing friction among family members.

Appointing a solicitor to manage the process can alleviate tension by providing impartial and independent guidance.

A solicitor can help avoid common mistakes made by DIY administrators, such as overlooking assets, miscalculating taxes, or displeasing beneficiaries.

In many cases, working with a solicitor can speed up the process, as banks often prefer to communicate with legal professionals.

For more information on our probate and estate administration services, please get in touch with us.

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