Dangers of DIY Probate
When you're appointed as an Executor of someone's Will, it becomes your responsibility to ensure that their estate is administered correctly after their death.
An Executor has numerous duties, including: ascertaining the assets of the estate, obtaining a grant of probate, paying any Inheritance Tax due (as well as settling other debts and liabilities), and collecting in the assets of the estate and distributing them in accordance with the terms of the Will. On the face of it, this can seem quite straightforward and it is possible for you as an executor to deal with the administration of the estate yourself. Alternatively, you could enlist the help of a specialist probate lawyer.
The obvious benefit in dealing with the estate yourself is the financial saving in professional fees to the estate. However, before you decide to go it alone, you should carefully consider what's involved and the risks of a DIY approach.
Risks of DIY Probate
Estate administration is a complex area and the biggest risk is that something may go wrong when dealing with the estate. Ignorance of the probate process is not a permissible defence for an Executor if something isn't done properly, or goes wrong.
If an estate is subject to Inheritance Tax, there are strict rules and HM Revenue & Customs will impose interest charges if payment is not made in time. A late payment could therefore be a costly mistake upon the estate.
As an Executor, you are required to distribute the assets of the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will - but, interpreting a Will is not always easy. Many Wills incorporate trusts which must be set up on a person's death and if this is not carried out correctly you are at risk of incorrectly distributing the assets of the estate.
Where an Executor does not carry out his duties correctly and causes a loss to the estate, you could be held personally liable to any beneficiary that suffers financially as a result and indeed be liable to HM Revenue and Customs.
Why Use a Lawyer
Seeking legal advice is always recommended and at Band Hatton Button, our Wills, Trusts & Probate team have extensive experience in handling the administration of estates. Our team includes fully qualified members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and of Solicitors for the Elderly.
If you are dealing with the administration of an estate and have any doubts about issues arising during the process, you should seek specialist legal advice.
For individual advice and assistance contact our Wills, Probate and Trusts Team to find out how we can help.