Pitfalls of DIY Law – Probate

With the huge increase in access to the internet and the wealth of information that can be found on it, more and more people are being tempted to try and deal with the administration of estates themselves.


Whilst in some cases the process can undoubtedly be quite straightforward, there are many pitfalls awaiting the unwary and inexperienced.


· Most banks and building societies will allow an Executor named in a Will or the next of kin of the deceased to close accounts containing relatively small amounts of money by signing a form of indemnity. However, Executors and Administrators should be aware that it is the value of the TOTAL estate and not the components of it that determine whether a Grant is required. Closing several smaller accounts may result in a breach of the required procedure.
· Even if there is only a small amount of cash, Probate will be required before there can be any transfer of land or property.
· Stocks and shares and many insurance policies cannot be dealt with without a Grant.
· If there is no Will there are statutory rules on who inherits the deceased’s estate and in what order.
· If there is no Will and the estate is worth more than a stipulated amount known as the statutory legacy then the whole estate will NOT necessarily pass to the spouse. If there are surviving children the spouse will only inherit the first £250,000 outright. Any amount above that is divided as to 50% to the spouse and 50% to be held on trust for the children.  Even if there are no children but the deceased is survived by parents, siblings or the children of siblings, then the total estate will still not pass to the surviving spouse, although the statutory legacy is higher. There are specific rules governing this of which the executors must be aware.
· An Inland Revenue account will need to be submitted with the application for a Grant. The Executors or Administrators must therefore be satisfied they understand the rules regarding gifts made by the deceased during their lifetime, gifts with reservation and pre-owned assets.
· All Beneficiaries of the residue of the estate (i.e. what is left after payment of all debts and specific legacies) are entitled to detailed estate accounts for approval.
· If the Executors and Administrators distribute the estate incorrectly or to the wrong people, or without discharging liabilities (even if they were not aware of them) they are personally liable if the situation cannot be rectified.
· There is no obligation on the Executors to instruct the solicitors who prepared the will to administer the estate. If they are inconveniently located or there are other reasons the executors would prefer to instruct another firm they are at liberty to instruct solicitors of their choice.

Here at A H Brooks & Co, our experienced Probate Team will guide you through the whole procedure in a friendly , sympathetic and easily understood manner. The matter will be dealt with by a qualified probate practitioner from start to finish. Our costs are payable from the estate.


If you require further advice and assistance please contact Gill Harrison at the Leek office on 01538 385201 or email gillharrison@ahbrooks.co.uk