News & Insights

DIY probate – dare you risk it?!

A look at the dangers of attempting to administer an estate without legal assistance.

Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), an independent legal group committed to providing the highest quality legal advice for older and vulnerable people, has issued a press release this week warning against the dangers of so called “DIY probates”.

It is of course entirely possible to apply for probate and deal with an estate without seeing a lawyer, but this “is not without risks” warns the legal group SFE.

Many professionally drafted Wills contain complex provisions relating to saving inheritance tax, to avoid those inheriting from paying care fees and to reduce the likelihood of potential disputes.  SFE has noticed an increase in “DIYers” returning to them to seek advice when a mistake has been made or when the complexity of the estate has proved too much.

One example provided by SFE was the estate of “Mrs A” where a will had included a tax saving trust, but when her husband administered the estate he paid the whole estate to himself.  SFE were able to step in and resolve this mistake,which then also avoided future complications occurring when Mr A eventually dies.

In a further case, a “Mr G” had sold some shares that had made a gain during the estate administration, giving rise to tax charge.  Had he transferred the shares to himself first before selling them he could have avoided the tax.

A local SFE member commented, “People aren’t always aware of the complexities and assume probate work is straightforward.  It is true it can be, but it is just as true that sometimes it isn’t.  In all but the most straightforward cases, it is important to seek timely specialist legal advice that can actually save you money and worry”.

Field Seymour Parkes supports the work of Solicitors for the Elderly and our firm will work in partnership with the deceased’s family to help and support them with the legal and technical work.  As elder law specialists, we can also offer extra help, for example by looking at the inheritance tax position of beneficiaries and aiding them in their own tax planning.  We adopt a flexible approach when administering an estate and are always happy to support those who wish to undertake certain aspects themselves.  This gives “DIYers” the best of both worlds: the safety of knowing a legal expert is involved, while keeping control of the cost of estate administration.