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Flora Nelmes examines why a solicitor should be used for probate

  • July 15, 2021
  • By Flora Nelmes, Associate

Should I use a solicitor for probate?

The role of a personal representative (‘PR’) is a hugely involved one.

Not only will you have to carry out the deceased’s wishes, but you will also need to meet your legal duty to properly administer the estate and ensure that you comply fully with the law.

Moreover, if something is missed or something goes wrong, the PRs could be held personally liable to any beneficiary who has suffered financial loss.

Many people start off thinking the process may look straightforward, but it can easily develop into something much more complicated.

With limited knowledge of the legal and tax issues, the process can quickly become arduous.  As a result, administering and finalising the estate will become protracted, especially if there are third parties involved.  And, as the timescale extends, the delays often cause friction between family members which could require expensive legal intervention to resolve and rectify.

Although going it alone may seem like a more cost-effective option, in our experience there are a number of common mistakes an inexperienced PR can make including:

  • Incorrectly interpreting the Will (e.g. failing to deal with a trust in the Will)
  • Undervaluing the estate for inheritance tax (‘IHT’) purposes
  • Failing to identify and report lifetime gifts to HMRC
  • Failing to pay IHT within the strict deadlines
  • Failing to identify all assets and debts of the deceased
  • Failing to use exemptions or reliefs to reduce the IHT payable, if applicable
  • Distributing the estate to the wrong beneficiaries

The benefit of instructing a solicitor to manage the probate and support the PRs is simply that you will have total peace of mind the estate will be administered properly, tax efficiently and in accordance with the law by a highly experienced and regulated professional.

While there will of course be a cost involved, given the potential pitfalls an inexperienced PR could fall into (and the potential cost of putting things right), the legal advice you take will be money well-spent in the long run.  And remember, it is a legitimate expense which can be paid from the estate.

At Hunters, we have extensive experience in dealing with the legal, tax and practical aspects of administering estates of all sizes and complexity and if you would like us to help you administer an estate, please contact Flora Nelmes at flora.nelmes@hunterslaw.com or call 0207 412 0050.

 

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