Is Probate Right For You?

By Vicki Coleman

When you’re new to something, you have to expect the odd mistake as you get to grips with it. However, making a mistake with probate could really cost you.

We’re not trying to put the frighteners up you – it’s important to know the risks of the probate process so that you can avoid them.

If you are a named executor in a will, you can be held legally and financially responsible for any errors that you make, even if they are genuine mistakes.

There is no limit to the financial liability that an executor could face if they fail to carry out their duties correctly. This means any outstanding payments or claims that come to light after the process has been completed would need to be covered by the executor personally, not by the estate.

It doesn’t sound very fair, does it? For most executors – and administrators, in the case of when the deceased did not write a will – this is the first time they’ve encountered probate. As unfair as it might sound, that’s the way it is.

So, before you decide to go it alone with the probate process, you need to be sure you’ve got the requisite skills.

Help is out there

For some people, reading the above will be enough for them to know that they’re going to get some help with probate. There’s no shame in that. By opting for some legal assistance, you’re guarding yourself against any legal and financial liabilities.

The role of an executor can be time-consuming, complex and very stressful, especially at a time of bereavement of a loved one. By instructing a probate specialist to take on the role of administering the estate on your behalf, you’re paying for peace of mind – for some, that’s priceless.

However, if you’re still in two minds about whether or not probate is right for you or not – i.e., if you’re going to proceed solo or with some kind of assistance – consider what you need in order to make a ‘success’ of it:

1.       You need all the relevant documents

The following documents are typically required to obtain a grant of probate and to administer the estate:

·       The original will: If the deceased person made a will, it will be required to apply for probate.

·       The death certificate: A copy of the death certificate must be provided to the probate registry.

·       Inventory of assets and liabilities: A list of the deceased person's assets and liabilities at the date of death must be provided.

·       Inheritance Tax forms: If the estate is subject to Inheritance Tax, the relevant forms must be completed and submitted to HM Revenue and Customs.

·       Probate application form: The probate application form (PA1) must be completed and submitted to the probate registry along with the will and other required documents.

·       Oath: An oath must be taken by the executor(s) or administrator(s) confirming the information provided in the probate application is correct.

·       Proof of identity: The executor(s) or administrator(s) must provide proof of their identity, such as a passport or driving license.

There’s a lot of dotting Is and crossing Ts to be done with probate.

2.       You need time and patience

The probate process is often a bit of a slog. If everything falls into place, you might come out the other end in a few months. But it can easily drag on for a year if there are any complications or you’re unable to keep up with the demands of the process.

The first thing you need to navigate probate without a hitch is time. You’ll have to submit all manner of documents and forms along the way, contact banks and other financial providers and keep dependents updated as you go.

So, if you’ve got a job which consumes all of your time, plus a busy family life, you could be up against it, to say the least. The more you have to balance, the greater the likelihood you’ll make an error.

3.       You need an uncomplicated estate

If the estate has many assets, multiple beneficiaries, or is subject to claims by creditors, the probate process can become more complex.

The more complicated the estate, the greater the potential for disputes over how assets should be distributed. It goes without saying that you really don’t need things to get messy.

You hear all the time about families who have fallen out over who gets what once a loved one has died. But it can be avoided with some third-party intervention.

So, ensure your family remains harmonious throughout probate by reaching out for some assistance.

4.       You need to be good with numbers

A big part of the probate process is working out the value of the estate – how any outstanding debt balances against savings, shares and ISAs. Before assets can be distributed, debts such as credit cards and mortgages must be paid out of the estate.

Your number crunching doesn’t end there. If the estate is subject to estate taxes, the executor/administrator must ensure that all taxes are properly calculated and paid.

So, in addition to being comfortable with numbers and financial management, you need to be organised and detail-oriented.

Keeping accurate records, communicating with beneficiaries and other stakeholders, and following all legal requirements are critical components of the probate process.

5.       You need an understanding family

This is arguably the most important thing. The more supportive your family is with the probate process, the easier it is for you to manage – and the less chance there is of legal action being taken against you.

But, there’s always one person who texts you once a week to get an update on where you are with it all, who queries everything and who asks for copies of documents. You might have someone in mind after reading that…

By outsourcing the probate process to a specialist like QuoteSearch, you can simply tell said individual that ‘it’s all in hand’.

Thanks to our partnership with Honey Legal, we can offer you free initial advice on whether probate will be required in your circumstances and explain to you the comprehensive service you will receive should you wish to proceed.