Probate: The Most Common Warning Sign of Danger Ahead

A blog by David Edwards, Managing Director

David Edwards Burt Brill & Cardens

Aside from managing the Firm here at Burt Brill & Cardens, much of my work as a Solicitor is with individuals and their families. This includes providing legal support to my clients when a family member or loved one dies.

My years of experience have provided me with specialist insight into helping my clients navigate the maze of the probate process while balancing the wishes of the deceased with the best interests of the beneficiaries and the estate.

The Warning Sign

Occasionally clients say, “it’s all pretty straightforward, we are going to do the probate ourselves”.

This is often the sign that there may be problems down the road.

If the person who has passed away has left everything to a surviving spouse and everything is in joint names, this may be true and very little needs to be done. More often though, what appears ‘simple’ turns out not to be.

If you feel you would be confident to handle a probate yourself, test yourself with the following questions:

  1. What would you do if a share portfolio has fallen in value after death, or, as is common, part of portfolio has increased and part has decreased?
  2. What if there are unused inheritance tax allowances and a property is sold for more than its value at death, incurring capital gains tax?
  3. Are there are problems with inheritance tax if the Will leaves property to a child at 21?

If your answer is ‘not sure’ to any of the above, then it is a good idea to have at least an initial meeting with our Probate Team. We will highlight any potential issues to you and give you a step-by-step roadmap for how the estate in question should be handled.

Danger Ahead

Not knowing what you do not know, or unknown unknowns, is perhaps the greatest danger we face. Making decisions when you do not know all the facts and circumstances is a big risk that the decision will cost you money or opportunity.

Being in the dark when it comes to probate can lead to bad choices and potentially expensive consequences. These can include;

  • Liability to the beneficiaries if you make a mistake and cause a loss to the estate, such as selling a house for less than it is worth
  • Financial penalties for providing late, inaccurate, or incomplete information to HMRC
  • Being held personally liable for unpaid debts
  • Potential claims against you or the estate if a beneficiary decides to contest

Your Roadmap

Although all our clients are looking for expert service delivered efficiently and with a personal touch, there are some who want us to do the whole job for them and others who like to work with us in a team approach.

In some cases we do everything from arranging the funeral, to house clearance, to all of the tax and administration, and distribution of assets. On other occasions we can deal with the legal and tax matters while the family prefer to deal with other matters such as distributing personal belongings and sorting out final bills.

Your roadmap will be a blend of your personal preferences and my team’s legal expertise. We will look at the individual details of the probate you are dealing with, discuss any potential issues with you, and agree upon a plan of action that works for you. We are always happy to work as a team and to divide the tasks so that we do those that represent value and deliver efficiency for you.

To book your probate roadmap meeting, contact our expert legal team on 01273 604 123 or email enquire@bbc-law.co.uk.