Can I Do Probate Myself?
You can do probate yourself, or you can ask a probate solicitor to help you: the choice is yours. The benefit of using a solicitor is that you can pass much of the work over to a professional. This removes the burden from your shoulders. It also provides peace of mind that the process has been completed accurately.
Before you apply for probate
You do not have to use a probate solicitor – you are perfectly entitled to complete the probate process yourself without legal help. You can apply for probate online or via the post. However, there are some steps you must complete before applying. This can be quite straightforward, or it can be very complex – it all depends on the estate.
In short, you need to:
- Calculate the value of the deceased’s estate; and
- Report the tax position to HMRC
Calculating the value of the estate
Calculating the value of the estate can be a significant undertaking. You need to get valuations for the deceased’s property and other notable assets, such as stocks, shares, investments, art and jewellery. You also need to contact any banks and financial institutions the deceased held assets with and request a final statement. This includes building societies, pension providers and life insurance policies.
Then you must complete the same exercise for the deceased’s debts. You need to speak to all the deceased’s creditors and determine the debt owing for each. This includes utility providers, mortgage lenders, credit cards, car finance and other personal loans. It is also necessary to establish what gifts the deceased gave away during the seven years before their death, and the value of any trusts where the deceased had a beneficial interest.
This exercise can take a lot of time. It is likely that you do not know exactly what assets and debts the deceased held. If not, you will have to invest many hours sifting through paperwork and correspondence to establish their financial situation. You will then have to contact each organisation to inform them of the death, and to verify the value of the asset/debt. This is especially complicated if the deceased had a large estate or held foreign property.
Reporting the tax position to HMRC
All this information must be reported to HMRC. Before you do so, you must use the value of the deceased’s assets to work out whether Inheritance Tax (IHT) is payable. This is a big responsibility and is something you must get right. Failing to pay the correct amount of Inheritance Tax carries serious penalties, even if it happened due to a genuine mistake. The calculation is based on the current Inheritance Tax rules which are subject to updates.
Applying for probate
Once all the above has been done, you can then apply for probate. This involves an application to the Probate Registry. You need to submit various documents in support of your application. Any mistakes will delay the application as it cannot be processed. In turn, this will delay the administration of the estate, which is the next stage of the process. This involves yet more work, ranging from selling assets, paying creditors to distributing the remaining estate.
Using a probate solicitor
If the deceased owned very little and there is no Inheritance Tax liability, you may feel confident enough to complete the probate process on your own. However, if the deceased owned a large estate (or it is complicated by certain factors such as foreign assets) then you must be prepared for a lot of work. It is also a big responsibility, as you will be held personally liable for any mistakes that are made.
Because of this, lots of people prefer to use a probate solicitor, especially where there is a large estate. You can hand the work over to someone who knows the rules inside out, meaning you will not have to familiarise yourself with probate and tax laws. A probate solicitor can investigate the deceased’s financial position and determine whether IHT is due. This saves you a lot of time and stress. It also speeds up the process, ensuring the beneficiaries receive their inheritance sooner rather than later.
Probate solicitors Sunderland
If you would like help with a probate application, call our Sunderland solicitors on 0191 567 7244 and we’ll be happy to help you. If you would rather contact us online, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our team will be in contact with you shortly.