Things to consider before self applying for probate.

Most people consider self-applying for probate because of the anticipated cost. They have heard stories of probate taking many months if not years and where costs are unpredictable and have run into many thousands of pounds.

It must be said these concerns are well founded. Traditionally solicitors and banks have charged estates by the hour, which is an open-ended contract, or a percentage of estate which can lead to the cost for probate being expensive.  However, there are several new probate providers who offer services by qualified solicitors at a fixed cost based solely on the work involved. So perhaps one of the things to consider before deciding DIY probate is to get a quote to see how much it would cost for one of these new providers to deal with it?

Perhaps another consideration before self-applying for probate is the time and effort needed to see the process through. Most executors are aware that there are forms to be completed. However, this is just a small part of the process. Probate is a protracted process usually spread over several months requiring the executor to revisit the situation on many future occasions.

Another consideration before self-applying for probate is the legal responsibility the executor has to the beneficiaries. For example, where an estate is high value, it is imperative executors do not miss out claiming any available inheritance tax allowances otherwise, they can be held personally responsible for any loss by the beneficiaries.  Most executors can read up on the allowances potentially available but what is less clear are the circumstances under which they can be used. For example, in respect of the RNRB allowance, “the HMRC’s site contains useful information in terms of when to make a claim however, it does not provide tax planning advice on an estate’s entitlement to the RNRB or comment on how to make use of it.”

Then there are complex arrangements to be considered before self-applying for probate, such as assets held in trust, or requests to create a trust in a Will. Obviously, there are many types of trust, and it is the responsibility of the executor to deal with these and also to understand how these should be accounted for to the Revenue. It should be noted there are occasions where assets held in a trust form part of the deceased’s estate.

Where the deceased lived in the UK, but the estate includes foreign property, investments or possessions careful consideration and a lot of research should be undertaken before self-applying for probate. Dealing with foreign assets will often involve the use of a local solicitor who is familiar with the laws of the country in which the assets are held. Where the deceased was domiciled in the UK the executor has the duty to inform HMRC for inheritance tax purposes of any assets owned abroad.

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