The risks of DIY Probate

Enquire about our Probate services

What is probate?

Probate is the entire process of dealing with a dead person’s estate (property, money and belongings). 

Many people think that it is easier or cheaper to do probate yourself, or to appoint a friend/family member to act as your executor, and deal with your estate when you die. But is this really a good idea? 

The reality is that probate is a complex process, and even when an estate seems relatively small and straightforward - this is often not the case! 

Not only would you or your friend/family member have to deal with the grief of losing a loved one, but you would also be required to deal with calculating the inheritance tax liability, and take on the risk of personal liability if you do something wrong. 

What does being personally liable mean? 

An executor is personally liable for debts that are left unpaid. This means that the executor has to pay out of their own pocket, if they calculate anything wrong, or if an unknown beneficiary comes forward after the estate has been distributed, for example. 

This is a heavy burden for anyone to carry. 

What are the pros and cons of doing probate yourself? Are there any risks of DIY probate?

DIY probate can significantly reduce costs, as long as you are willing to accept the risks involved with doing it yourself. 

As an executor is personally liable, there are a number of risks, such as the following: 

  • There is a lot of paperwork and responsibility involved, so you would need to carry out a lot of work in acting as executor. This includes preparing accounts, filing inheritance tax forms and payment of inheritance tax 
  • The executor can be sued by beneficiary/ies, if they fail to act correctly 
  • The executor is legally responsible for meeting all legitimate claims
  • An executor is responsible for valuing the estate. If you fail to value assets or property correctly such as, if you did not obtain the true market value for a property, you would be personally liable
  • If an unknown beneficiary comes forward after the estate has been distributed, the executor is personally liable for their claim if they were successful 
  • Before applying for probate, you have to swear an oath stating the value of the estate, so you may need specialist advice on how to calculate this. There are a number of factors to be considered here, such as the amount of gifts in the previous seven years. 

What about inheritance tax calculations?

If an estate is worth over £325,000 (the nil rate band ‘NRB’) then inheritance tax (IHT) is payable at 40% (of the amount over the NRB). 

As this amount includes your property, and with property prices rising considerably at the moment, it is easy to see why so many estates are liable for IHT. 

There are a number of tax reliefs and exemptions available, such as charitable legacies, business assets and main residences. The rules are complex, and it is important that the IHT is calculated correctly (and paid correctly), as otherwise, the executor will be personally liable for the shortfall. 

IHT has to be paid early, which can create a cash-flow problem (which is the executor’s legal responsibility to pay). 

There may also be other tax implications to consider, such as if the deceased made any lifetime gifts or if there is any income tax payable. 

What about an unexpected claim?

These days, with the increase of extended families, there is always the chance of an unknown beneficiary coming forward. 

Imagine you deal with the estate yourself, pay all the beneficiaries and everything else you need to do, and then someone makes a formal claim against the estate to say they are entitled to a share. 

You as the executor would be personally liable to pay their claim, if their claim succeeded. 

It is recommended that an executor should publicly notify creditors of the death, through appropriate newspaper adverts. This is not a legal requirement but does provide security in the event of a claim. 

Is it possible to do probate yourself? 

Yes, it is possible to do probate yourself - but it makes sense to invest in seeking advice from a professional as otherwise you risk making costly mistakes.

A professional person (like those in our team at Wills.Services), is backed by professional indemnity insurance, and so does not have personal liability for any mistakes or unforeseen circumstances that could arise. 

You will then be reassured that the estate is being dealt with properly and in accordance with the law, meaning that you have peace of mind at an upsetting time for your family. 

We can talk you through the probate process, and give you any aspects of probate advice here at Wills.Services. Contact us to find out more

How do I do probate myself? 

Check out our Step-by-Step guide to probate here.  

Is it cheaper to do probate myself? How much does probate cost?

It is of course cheaper to do probate yourself - however, you could end up paying significantly more later on if you make any mistakes! 

Probate fees vary, depending on whether you use a professional service and where you live, for example. 

The main cost of administering probate is the application fee, which is £215 currently in England and Wales (but £155 if you apply through a Solicitor). 

The fees in Northern Ireland are £261, and £200 in Scotland

For estates worth less than £5,000 in England, Wales and Scotland, the fees are waived (this is £10,000 in Northern Ireland). 

You would be required to obtain a number of copies of the grant of probate, at £1.50 each

The death certificate is £11 per copy in England and Wales, £10 in Scotland and £8 in Northern Ireland. It is likely you would need multiple copies, as businesses may require a copy when you contact them in connection with the estate.  

If you decide to use a professional probate service such as Wills.Services, you would need to factor in the cost of their bill as well. 

Who can help me with probate? 

Contact us at Wills.Services today to speak to a friendly professional for help with probate. 

We can provide you with no obligation probate advice, and offer extremely competitive probate fees

We also offer a professional online will writing service, so we can help you with all aspects of probate and will writing. 

Enquire about our Probate services

Related: