The short answer is no – there is no legal reason why you must have a solicitor to conduct the probate of an estate. However, that’s like a lot of areas of law –conveyancing for example – where you don’t legally need a solicitor, but few people, if anyone, actually attempt to do it on their own. Why? Because probate is both complicated and risky.
How common is DIY probate?
Recent figures from the Ministry of Justice figures show that between April and June 2021, 41% of applications for Grants of Representation were personal applications, made by individuals who were not using a solicitor for their estate administration. That’s up from 36% back in 2012.
That’s a huge number of people who’ve decided to take the DIY approach and take on an enormously complex area of law for themselves, without the help of a specialist lawyer.
However it does mean that in 2021 the remaining applications for probate – a full 59% – were, in fact, still made through probate solicitors.
Worried about handling probate yourself? Why take risks? Call our specialist probate solicitors on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544 for FREE initial phone advice – with no strings attached.
The most common problems with DIY probate
Doing it yourself can be a very dangerous approach to probate.
What’s interesting is that there are a number of common errors and misconceptions that crop up again and again with DIY probate applications. And the fact that the same costly errors keep being made, shows that this is not an area of law which should be tackled by someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
But what are the most common problems with DIY probate?
• Failing to completely collect estate monies — in some cases this is relatively simple, particularly where the executor was very thorough in record-keeping or where there were few assets. But problems can emerge where issues are complex or records incomplete and messy. It’s surprisingly easy for an executor to fail to identify and collect in all monies due to the estate – and these can include debts, and old dormant accounts for example
• Distributing the estate — often the problem can stem from a badly drafted will. It is particularly easy for a DIY will to be misunderstood, and it’s surprisingly common for these applications to end up with large amounts of money being paid to the wrong people.
• Tax affairs — getting the tax position exactly right is often most important part of probate. Particularly when it comes to medium sized or larger estates, paying the right tax and making sure that you claim all eligible reliefs and exemptions is not something which is easily done by someone without good solid experience.
• Probate Disputes — If someone disputes the will, or perhaps makes an inheritance act claim how should that be dealt with? It is often considerably easier for someone to successfully challenge a DIY will, as it is more likely to be written in a way which leaves loopholes that can easily be challenged. Ignorance of the law is no defence, and DIY Wills or DIY probate (or worse still a combination of the two) could leave this your estate wide open to abuse. what’s worse, it isn’t always crystal clear from day one that there is going to be an inheritance claim. That could take an analysis of the will in relation to the size of the estate and the family of the deceased
Click here to read more about how we can help with bringing or defending a contested probate claim
• Dispute between executors — in addition to the risks outlined above, it’s surprising how many disagreements crop up between executors themselves, with a range of causes.
Click here to find out more about Executor Disputes
It’s really noticeable that alongside the rising trend for DIY probate, and DIY wills, there has been a worrying increase in the number of contested wills. Records show that contested probate applications made to the High Court rose by a remarkable 700% in just five years between 2008 and 2013, and the number of claims continues to rise. The number of inheritance disputes heard in the High Court, for example, rose from 227 in 2018 to 368 in 2019. We don’t think that’s a coincidence.
Putting yourself at risk
If you choose to administer someone’s estate on a DIY basis, you must be aware that you are taking on personal liability for any mistakes you make, however innocent, both during the administration and in the future. And that’s why most people prefer to have an experienced probate solicitor handle estate administration for them.
Click here to read more about the role of the executor
Do I Need a Solicitor for Probate? Is DIY probate worth the risk?
While some people are no doubt capable of handling all aspects of a relatively simple estate, many people struggle – and very few are capable of dealing with the larger or more complicated estates, or worse still estates that involve a potential dispute.
Having a trained, experienced probate lawyer prepare your will and administer your estate does not need to be costly. In fact, when you look at the risks and potential costs that could be the result of even the tiniest oversight, it pales into insignificance. What’s more, you’ll have the peace of mind that your probate issues are being taken care of by a solicitor who has the necessary training and experience.
Specialist advice doesn’t need to be costly or difficult.
What’s more, all solicitors in England and Wales must have a minimum of £2 million professional indemnity insurance [we have more] to cover any problems in the unlikely event they should arise.
For further advice on how we can help to administer your estate professionally, effectively and in a way which will provide you with peace of mind, call us today.
We can help with the administration of the estate. Here at Bonallack & Bishop, although we are more than happy to handle the entire probate process, we often help clients with limited aspects of that administration.
So if you think you can handle some of the estate, but perhaps not the most complex aspects – don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to see if we can help.
Click here to read what some of our clients say about our Wills and Probate Lawyers