DIY probate could cost you more

22 Nov 2011

It is possible for someone to apply for probate and deal with a persons' affairs after they have died without seeing a lawyer, however this does introduce some risks.

Many professionally drafted wills contain trusts which are used for various reasons, including to help those who are inheriting assets avoiding having to pay inheritance tax and minimising the potential liability to care fees for a surviving spouse or civil partner.

For example, Mrs A's will had included a tax saving trust, but when her husband administered the estate, he initially paid the whole estate to himself. Fortunately, Mr A then sought legal advice so that his error could be corrected which means that, on his death, the liability for inheritance tax on his estate will be reduced.

In another case, Mr G sold some shares that had made a gain during the administration of his late sister's estate and had to pay tax. If he had transferred the shares to himself first, before selling them, he could have avoided the tax and an appropriately qualified solicitor would have been able to assist him in dealing with this.

Karen Perugini, Head of the Wills, Probate and Trusts Team at Trethowans Solicitors comments; "People aren't always aware of the complexities involved in dealing with an estate when someone dies and they often assume the probate work is simple. It is true that it can be, but more often than not there is some issue that needs to be dealt with which makes matters slightly more complicated and it is so important to get it right in order to try and reduce the likelihood of causing further upset to the recently bereaved or avoiding potential disputes. In all but the most straightforward cases, it is important to seek timely specialist legal advice that can actually save you money and worry."

"Solicitors who specialise in handling probate – the name given to administering a persons' estate on their death – will work in partnership with the deceased's family to help and support them with the legal and technical work. As specialists, we can even add value to the estate, for example by identifying cases where money is owed to the deceased in respect of care funding, which should have been met by the NHS and which we can then assist them with in making a claim."