Do I need a lawyer when dealing with Probate?
You don’t need a lawyer to get a Will through the Probate process, but it might help if the Estate you’re dealing with is a particularly complex one. Here we look at the rules around kicking off the legal process to start administering a Will, and whether or not getting a lawyer might help the process.
When is Probate Required?
First of all, you’ll need to figure out whether Probate is required for the Estate you’re dealing with. If the person who’s died didn’t have any property, or had a small amount of total assets, then it’s likely you won’t need to apply for a grant of Probate.
Most banks have thresholds where they may not release funds without a Grant of Probate. By calculating the total assets of the Estate, you can work out whether it’s enough to need Grant of Probate. Assets include property, possessions and investments, as well as any debts.
If you’re an Administrator or Executor on a Will
When you realise your the Executor on a Will, this is the stage when you’ll need to decide whether you hire a Probate lawyer or not.
If you decide to apply for Probate without using a Lawyer, there are certain steps to follow:
- Complete a Probate PA1 application form – you can find this on the Gov UK site
- Calculate and report the Estate’s value to HM Revenue & Customs
- Pay any Inheritance Tax that is due
- Send the Probate PA1 application to the Probate Registry (Court)
Read our article on the Probate for a more in-depth look at the process, and what you’ll need to do as Executor of an Estate.
What does a Probate Lawyer do?
You might be wondering what a Probate Lawyer can do that you can’t. The most glaring difference between you and Probate Solicitors is that they are experts in the field of tax returns, especially taxes around death. These folks are the heroes of the banal side of death: the laws of Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax are all under their command.
As an Executor or Administrator of an Estate, if a mistake is made, you could be held legally and financially liable – getting a Probate Solicitor in can dodge this. It can also be a lengthy process and taking on a Probate Lawyer can spare you from having to deal with all of the administrative, legal and tax work required, such as calculating Inheritance Tax and corresponding with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
When might I hire a Probate Lawyer?
Where an Estate requires Inheritance Tax to be paid, has complex issues or you just don’t feel confident in dealing with the Estate or with HM Revenue & Customs, then you might want to hire a Probate Lawyer.
If the person who’s died had foreign assets, offshore accounts and multiple businesses, it might be that you won’t be able to deal with all of this without legal help.
Find out more
Take a look at our Legal Matters page for more information on the legal side of death.
Our Money Issues page also has lots of helpful guidance on financial planning around death.