DIY Probate Pitfalls
In 2017 there were 95,000 applications for a Grant of Representation by individuals; that is for Probate where there is a Will, or Letters of Administration on intestacy or other reasons. This compares with 155,000 applications through a Solicitor or alternative business structures. The person taking the Grant is called “The Personal Representative “ (PR).
The process of applying for a Grant of Representation can be relatively straightforward if the assets and liabilities of the deceased’s Estate are simple, with much guidance being available from the local Probate Registry and HM Revenue and Customs. Still, most PRs prefer to use a Solicitor for a variety of reasons:
• There are international assets, business interests, or trusts involved, or
• There is family conflict, second marriages, overseas beneficiaries, or
• There are complex Inheritance Tax or Capital Gains Tax considerations, or
• The process is simply too time consuming, or
• The Executors are aware that there might be problems with their lack of experience or knowledge.
The role of PR is generally a thankless task, taking considerable time and effort for no personal reward. A lay PR can claim out of pocket expenses, but not for time
If the Estate is insolvent or not correctly distributed, the PR can find themselves personally liable for debts or charges of maladministration, as well as criticism from beneficiaries whose first question is generally ‘how much will I inherit’ followed quickly by ‘when will I receive my inheritance’.
The beneficiaries will expect to be kept up to date with progress in the administration of an estate and for all matters to be dealt with punctually. A PR needs to be confident in interpretation of the law, taxes and to be able to keep accounts properly.
Increasingly we find that we are being consulted by beneficiaries who are frustrated by a lack of progress and communication by lay PRs who seem to be in no rush to complete their duties, or have been overwhelmed by the complexities involved.
Such delays can be expensive for the beneficiaries, especially where a property is left vacant and there are ongoing charges for utilities, insurance and maintenance.
The cost of instructing a Solicitor to assist the PR with help in the administration of an Estate is normally borne by the Estate, not by the PR personally, so taking early advice on particular issues or general guidance can be beneficial to both the PR and the Beneficiary.
Heppenstalls Solicitors can offer guidance to PRs, apply for the Grant of Representation on their behalf, or can offer a full Estate administration service and are happy to offer a competitive quotation or a fixed price service, depending upon the assistance required.
If you would like to speak with Steven or the team for advice please do not hesitate to contact us at Heppenstalls New Milton on 01425 610078 or Lymington on 01590 689500.