DIY Probate – Is it Worth the Risk?

DIY probate is a complicated topic – on the one hand it can save you money, on the other it can be a time-consuming and confusing process, often with high risk involved. Despite this, around one third of probate applications are done by normal people going for the DIY probate option.

What are the risks of DIY probate?

While DIY probate can cut costs considerably, there can be risks involved. For starters there’s all the legal jargon to get through. You’ll probably need a good legal dictionary and a lot of patience to understand the forms in the first place – but it’s not impossible.

On top of that, you’ve got mountains of paperwork to tackle. On average it takes a solicitor 8 – 12 weeks to apply for probate successfully, and that’s with a legal background and prior experience of the process, so you’ll want to add a good few hours on that for yourself.

But the main risk involved with DIY probate is the possibility of getting something wrong. If you over or under value the estate, make a mistake on the form or omit some important information, you have technically broken the law and are legally responsible for any tax claims etc. that may be incorrect. This could end up with you being investigated by the government, fined heavily or even sued by other beneficiaries.

How can you ensure probate is done properly?

So how can you avoid this? Well unfortunately the mountains of paperwork can’t be helped, if you’re taking on the responsibility of doing probate yourself it comes with the territory, but to avoid the looming worry of being sued or fined, simply pay a solicitor to look over your forms before sending them off – that way you can be reassured that everything has been filled out correctly and no mistakes have been made.

What do you need to know before starting DIY probate?

So you’re aware of the workload and the risk and you’ve decided you’re going to tackle probate yourself, where do you start? Well first there are a couple of questions to be answered.

Did the person leave a will?

If there is a will and you are the named executor, then lucky you! Things will be fairly straightforward. However, if there is no will or no executor named in it, things may get a little more complicated. The estate will be passed on according to laws of intestacy, which usually means it will go to the next of kin, e.g. spouse, civil partner or child.

Do you need a Grant of Probate?

You’ll need a Grant of Probate if the deceased’s estate is worth over £5,000 after the funeral costs have been taken out.

The only time you won’t need a Grant of Probate is if the estate is worth under £5,000 or if the estate will pass directly to the surviving spouse/civil partner in the case of a join account, or if it doesn’t include land, property or shares.

You’ll want to check in with the bank though as every financial institution has its own rules surrounding Grant of Probate.

How to DIY Probate?

So you’ve decided to do your own probate? We’ve outlined the basic steps here for doing DIY probate, but if you need more help check out our in depth guide.

  1. Find out if there is a will and who has been named executor.
  2. Apply for the Grant of Representation to be able to access the deceased’s bank account and estate.
  3. Work out the estate value – go through any bills, bank account statements, property deeds etc.
  4. Fill out the Grant of Probate forms, get them checked over by a solicitor and send them off.
  5. Pay any inheritance tax due.
  6. Receive the assets e.g. money, property deeds etc.
  7. Pay any outstanding debts, such as the deceased’s utility bills.
  8. Distribute the estate between beneficiaries – basically give out what is stated in the will.
  9. Be aware that for 6 months after the death, relatives can still contest the will so be careful not to spend too much until you know the inheritance is secure.

So if you’re planning on doing probate yourself, it’s not impossible but it can be difficult and risky so we recommend working with a solicitor in the background who is willing to check over your forms and point out any potentially illegal mistakes. You still do the legwork yourself, saving a great deal of money, but you have the reassurance from a trained probate expert that your DIY probate is successful.

At Best Value Probate we can help with your DIY probate, just give us a call on 0207 406 5875 to discuss what you need.

About the Author Ellie Pierpoint

Ellie is a resident writer for Best Value Probate, covering topics such as Probate, wills and other legal proceedings.