Why it pays to pay for probate

In the midst of the current crisis in the cost of living and the economic environment, it is understandable that many executors choose to administer the estate of a deceased themselves and dispense with the expense of instructing an attorney. We have compiled a list of 5 main reasons why it pays to pay for probate.

1. Protection against financial risk:

Executors are responsible to the beneficiaries and are personally responsible for anything that goes wrong. Thus, administering an estate yourself, rather than mandating a lawyer, means assuming an additional risk. This may be exacerbated by the fact that for many executors this will be their first time in the role. Unfamiliarity with the legal system, dealing with HM Revenue & Customs, HM Land Registry and generally financial organizations can all mean that important deadlines are missed and financial penalties can result. If something goes wrong and you have appointed a lawyer, you can complain to them and benefit from their indemnity insurance. Hiring a solicitor to handle the estate can therefore give you peace of mind – not only that you are in safe hands, but also that you have an extra layer of protection.

2. Rely on the expertise of a lawyer and access to resources

Instructing a notary who does this work on a daily basis and who is familiar with the deadlines and the organizations mentioned has many advantages. A lawyer will have access to letters of case law and software specifically designed to complete and file the necessary documents, not to mention the technical resources if there is a point of law or procedure to be dealt with, or the expertise within his firm to lean on. Unless you have access to these resources and software yourself, it will likely take you longer than it would take a lawyer to do the same job.

3. It saves you time

Administering an estate is a time-consuming process, with much correspondence still having to be done by mail. It is not uncommon for the administration to take one or even two years. More complicated estates can take even longer to administer. The amount of work required is often a surprise to an executor and the time required can interfere with other work you might be doing or just eat into your free time. A lawyer can therefore help you free up evenings and weekends that you would otherwise devote to the administration of an estate.

4. It’s a burden

If the deceased is a family member or friend, you will be grieving at the same time as you deal with their estate, which is a double burden. As the months pass, beneficiaries can become restless and want to know when an asset is going to be sold or when they are likely to receive their inheritance. Lawyers know the stages of an administration and the deadlines and can manage expectations accordingly as professionals. Recent delays in probate applications have put even greater pressure on executors trying to manage expectations themselves.

5. And finally… the costs are more manageable than you think

While notary fees for estate administration may seem high, they often amount to between 1.5% and 3.5% plus VAT of the gross estate value. The costs are not payable by you personally and are deducted from the estate.

James Mabey, Senior Partner at Winckworth Sherwood.

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