By Rochelle Graham, 21st January 2021
Losing a relative or a close friend is always going to be a difficult time and having the responsibility for the administration of their estate can be daunting. Dealing with legal and financial formalities can be complicated and time-consuming; therefore it helps to have experienced probate solicitors such as Goughs on your side, sharing the workload and responsibility. Many people are not aware that solicitors can handle any stage of the administration process on your behalf, or simply assist with the stages you find most challenging.
We understand that some Executors may wish to deal with most of the estate administration themselves. In recent years, the Probate Registry introduced an online service in an attempt to increase speed and efficiency for probate applications and in November 2020 it was announced that the online probate application process was to become mandatory, except for a number of exceptional cases, that still require you to make the application using the paper forms.
One of the main advantages of the online probate service is that it has allowed Executors more autonomy and the system has been designed in a way that allows you to provide the information for the application in a more efficient way.
There is also a benefit for legal professionals, who now have the ability to access the online system at any time to receive updates on how an application is progressing.
However, a recent study by The Public and Commercial Services Union claims that the new online probate service has actually increased the length of time taken for probate to be granted and has also increased the error rate in applications by 74%.*
In more straightforward cases, executors often only require assistance in making the application for the Grant of Probate. Estates are not always simple and easy to administer and can in fact be quite complicated. In these circumstances, the support a solicitor can provide is invaluable, especially when inheritance tax is payable or there are foreign assets.
Many executors are unaware that they can be held financially liable for any errors made, such as failure to pay tax due or incorrectly distributing funds. Therefore, people using the online service can potentially be placed at greater risk due to the possibility of making significant mistakes or falling victim to fraud. If in doubt over any complex probate issues, it is always best to consult a member of our Private Client team to ensure the estate is administered correctly.
Ultimately, the executors decide exactly how much help they require and which parts of the estate (if any) they wish to hand over to their solicitor.
At Goughs our experienced legal team is here to offer a helping hand, whether you need initial advice, assistance with a difficult stage or for someone to take responsibility for the whole probate process. To speak to a member of the team today, please contact a member of our Private Client team or book your appointment today.