Yes, it is possible to tackle the process of probate yourself, particularly where the estate is straightforward and there is only one beneficiary.
The Ministry of Justice has good online support: http://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/probate
However, applying for Probate involves a lot of letter writing and form filling, and then frequently chasing companies which haven’t responded. All the assets of the person who has died, plus gifts they have made in the years before they died must be scrupulously reported. Everything must be completely accurate as the executors will be swearing under oath that the information given is correct, and any tax liability is calculated from the figures provided. The work must be finished by transferring all assets to the named beneficiaries, or selling them and accounting to the beneficiaries for the proceeds. You need attention to detail, patience and time.
So why would I use a solicitor?
- The amount of work in getting probate can be huge and time consuming. If someone else can do it for you for a reasonable price, do you really want to take it on?
- You can get it wrong – if the tax declaration is inaccurate there may be significant fines; beneficiaries can sue you if you pay them the incorrect amount, as can creditors if you don’t pay the debts of the deceased. For example, there may be money owing to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP); if you pay the beneficiaries before you have clearance (which can take several months) you may be personally liable to repay the DWP
- You might miss tax recovery and planning opportunities.
- Following the death of a second parent inter sibling rivalries can bubble to the surface. Do you really want to be the one doing all the hard work of getting probate, then having to justify your actions to your siblings?
- A good solicitor will help and support you through a difficult time, answering lots of questions, including some which are not immediately relevant to getting probate. Therefore, having a trusted expert on hand will ensure that you get things right.