Understanding the Risks of DIY Probate


10th November 2020

When it comes to protecting your assets, you want a knowledgeable solicitor to administer your estate. Many people tend to handle estates themselves, especially if a family member dies. It’s understandable to consider doing it yourself, but as many quickly realize, this can be a much taller order than expected.

There are countless resources available online to help aid you through the process. If your estate is simple your loved ones will be able to administer it. 

But, if you’re not a professional, you may miss things that could cause major problems down the road. As an experienced solicitor, I understand the pitfalls that can occur. I want to guide you through a few of the major risks of DIY probate. 

Risk #1: Checking the Will and Assets

It would help if you made sure that the Will in your possession is the deceased’s last Will. This issue may seem simple, but another Will may exist that would void the previous one. Having another Will come up after you have dealt with the estate could be catastrophic. 

In addition to the Will, a thorough evaluation of all the assets needs completion. You could miss old bank accounts, premium bonds, the holding of shares, gifts, and many other things easily. 

Hiring a professional to survey the details helps decrease the risk of missing something. If you miss something when you do it yourself, you could be personally liable for it and may have to pay out of pocket later on. 

Risk #2: Interpretation

Reading a Will is one thing, but interpreting it is another. Sometimes they are handmade and not easy to understand. Sometimes the wishes are unable to be fulfilled, which could cause even further complications. This problem could come from a missing beneficiary or an asset that no longer exists. 

There are rules laid out in legislation about what should happen in these instances. When you hire a professional, you help eliminate the risk of mistakes.  

Risk #3: Personal Liability

As the executor of the estate, you could be liable for unpaid debts. This liability means you will have to pay out of your pocket if you don’t receive the due inheritance. This problem could happen for several reasons, including not obtaining the real market value for a property. 

You could also have an unknown beneficiary come forward after the estate is distributed, or there could be an outstanding tax bill. Ignorance is not something you can plead if this happens, so the risk is very high. 

All estate debts need payment before any beneficiaries receive compensation. The single way to avoid liability is to make sure the estate is dealt with appropriately. You need a specialist solicitor with the training and experience to get the job done to do this. 

Risk #4: Calculating Taxes

Most estates have tax issues. More estates these days are now liable for inheritance tax (IHT). When an estate exceeds value at £325,000, IHT can charge up to 40 percent of the value exceeding the amount. 

Since many properties are worth that amount and more, it makes sense that many come with the IHT band. 

Many tax reliefs and exemptions are available. Some of these include charitable legacies, business assets, and your primary residence. The rules aren’t simple, and inaccurate calculations could mean that you pay the wrong amount. You could end up having to pay beneficiaries out of your pocket, and you will be responsible for all of it. 

IHT needs early payment. With this responsibility, it could cause financial issues. You may not have the money available just yet. As executor, you will be responsible for paying it. It may be tempting to pass the responsibility onto a beneficiary, but it is not worth the risk.

 Even if you trust the beneficiary, there are cases where the beneficiary has backed out or even ran off with the money. This situation will still leave the executor responsible. 

Other details should be considered, such as lifetime gifts that could create more IHT. Income tax could also be payable on trusts and rental properties. 

Risk #5: Risking Unexpected Claims

The rise in extended families means a higher risk for unexpected claims by unknown beneficiaries. You could deal with the estate yourself, pay all the heirs, and someone could suddenly come forth with a formal claim that they are entitled to a share of the estate. This issue could blow all of your plans out of the water.

The only way you could avoid personal responsibility for this is if you have publicly notified creditors of the death through the correct newspaper sources. This practice isn’t a strict legal requirement, but it helps protect you if a claim arises. 

We’re Here to Help

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors is here to help you through your probate challenges. Don’t risk unnecessary complications, contact us today to get started, and make sure you and your family are in good hands. 


The Probate Process: Applying for Probate and Taking Next Steps

Applying For Probate

24th July 2020

When a loved one passes, it’s already a difficult enough time without added stress. On top of that, it can be a challenging process taking on the complicated duties of administering the estate, but that’s exactly what the executor of a Will and an estate has to do.

This is called the probate process, and it involves calling in assets, paying off any remaining debts, and paying any applicable inheritance taxes. All of that comes before distributing the estate according to the Will of the deceased or, worse, dealing with the rules of intestacy if the deceased died without leaving a Will.

Most of the time, a probate lawyer is best equipped to help an executor through this process, but before going to that step, it’s important to understand the process first. The exact steps and details may vary according to the Will and other factors, but what follows is a basic summation of the process.

Apply for a Grant of Probate

The person designated as the executor of the Will must file for a Grant of Probate with the probate court. This is the process of asking for legal recognition of executor status and permission to represent and administer the estate.

Additionally, the executor has to file the Will and a death certificate with the court along with any other documents the jurisdiction may require. The court will then hold a hearing to approve the executor. This is also the stage where the court will hear any objections from other parties regarding the executor.

If the deceased did not leave a will, the court will decide how to administer the estate, or a relative of the deceased, commonly the next of kin, may petition to become the executor.

Give Notice and Take Inventory of Assets

Assuming the executor is approved and obtaining the Grant of Probate succeeds, it is now time to notify all creditors, beneficiaries, and heirs that the estate is in probate. The exact means of doing this may vary by local laws.

At the same time begins inventorying all assets and appraising their values. This includes but is not limited to financial accounts (bank, retirement, etc.), stocks and bonds, real estate holdings, and valuable personal items (art collections, automobiles, and jewelry are some examples).

Take Care of Remaining Bills and Debts

Before distributing assets to beneficiaries and heirs, it is necessary to close out any outstanding debts. This can be a time-consuming process because it often requires extensive scrutiny of records, accounts, and the like.

Likewise, the executor has to pay all applicable income and inheritance taxes.

To pay these debts, the executor will use the estate’s assets. In the event that the estate cannot cover all debts, the court will have to take over and prioritize the remaining claims against the estate.

This works the other way as well. If there is money owed to the estate, such as through paychecks, rent owed by tenants, and other forms of owed compensation or remuneration, the executor sees that those obligations are met.

If there are disputes between creditors and the estate, it’s best for the executor to seek representation by a probate lawyer immediately if he or she has not already done so.

Establishing an estate account to pay bills and other expenses makes this part of the process easier to manage.

Distribute the Rest of the Estate

Now that all debts have been covered, it is time to distribute the remaining assets according to the instructions in the Will. This is the stage where there might be disputes between the executor and beneficiaries, and this possibility is another persuasive argument for hiring a probate lawyer to help steer the executor through what can be a protracted, complicated, and occasionally bitter process.

Finally, Close the Estate

With all debts paid and assets distributed, the executor submits all records and receipts to the court and petitions for the estate to be closed. Once the court grants that, the executor is released from that role.

Probate Service by Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors

By now, you likely appreciate that the task of being the executor of an estate and managing the probate process is a daunting one even when everything goes smoothly. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all this on top of the stress surrounding the deceased’s passing. When there are disputes or when the Will is unusually complicated, things can get even more difficult to sort out.

Sometimes an executor desperately needs help. Sometimes an executor really prefers not to manage this process at all and would rather entrust it to a skilled professional solicitor.

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors personalises its probate services according to every particular circumstance, and our lawyers are experts in managing and walking you through every step of the process.

Because we know this is a challenging time and a difficult process, we’ll work at a pace comfortable for you. Because we have spent more than a decade specializing in just such affairs, we work tirelessly to make this process as easy as possible on you while being efficient and effective in closing the estate. And because we know that circumstances can change rapidly, we provide the flexibility you need to handle all legal proceedings surrounding the passing of a loved one.

Let us help you manage your responsibility as executor and get you and your loved ones the closure they need. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us, and let us help you move forward and ensure that your loved one’s estate is wound up properly.


What Is Probate?

Applying For Probate

22nd April 2020


Managing the financial and property related affairs of a loved one when they die is never easy. At Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors, we have prepared a simple guide to talk you through the steps required when administering a dead person’s estate.

The entire administration process is called ‘Probate’. In a nutshell, this process involves organising the finances, assets and possessions of the deceased and distributing them as inheritance – after paying any debts and taxes.

Every estate and every Will is different so the process will vary according to the instructions left in the Will and the assets, creditors and beneficiaries the estate has. You can read more about the benefits of writing a Will in our article titled ‘Do I need a Will?’

If you have been appointed an Executor in somebody’s Will, you are responsible for carrying out probate. There are four main stages to the process:

  • Assessing the total value of the estate and whether it’s liable for inheritance tax.
  • Apply to the probate registry for a grant of probate and submit an inheritance tax form to the tax office.
  • Pay any inheritance tax that is due and swear an oath at a Solicitors office or a probate registry.
  • Administer the estate by gathering in assets, paying off any debts and distributing what is left according to the Will.

For more information about applying for probate or the probate process including how long it takes and how much it costs, get in touch with Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors based in Woodley for trusted advice and a professional and respectful service.

Tel: 0118 343 2737
Email: [email protected]