Do I Need A Solicitor For Probate?

sarah ryan
Sarah RyanAccount Manager @ Lawhive & Non-Practising Solicitor
Updated on 28th November 2023

Coping with the aftermath of losing a loved one is especially hard, in particular when it comes to managing their estate and financial matters. The legal process involved in handling these affairs, commonly referred to as probate, can be stressful and time-consuming. 

do-i-need-a-solicitor-for-probate

Whether you are dealing with a large estate or find yourself confused by the contents of your loved one's will, seeking professional assistance during this difficult time may prove beneficial. 

Whilst it is possible to navigate through probate on your own, working with a solicitor can provide you with expert legal guidance and support that you most probably need.

In this guide, we aim to shed light on the benefits of engaging with a solicitor through probate.

What is probate?

When someone passes away, it is sometimes necessary to apply for probate before you are able to deal with their estate (such as property, money, and possessions).

This legal right is either called grant of probate (if the person left a will) or grant of letters of administration (if someone dies without a will).

Do I need a solicitor for a probate?

You may be tempted by the cost-saving potential of a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach. After all, why pay for professional and legal advice when you can handle it on your own? Before making such a decision, it is essential to carefully evaluate the trade-offs involved.

A DIY probate might save you money in the short term but it’s important to understand that the role of an executor is significant and carries a lot of responsibility. Any mistakes made during the probate application process could result in long delays. These delays not only prolong the distribution of assets, but also increase the likelihood of claims and disputes from beneficiaries.

Therefore, before deciding whether to work with a solicitor for probate, it is important to weigh potential cost savings against the risks associated with delayed applications. 

Seeking help from a solicitor becomes particularly valuable when:

Dealing with complex estates

If an estate involves numerous assets or intricate financial arrangements, trying to work through these complexities without legal expertise can be confusing and challenging.

Facing unclear or disputed wills

In cases where there is uncertainty or disagreements regarding the testamentary capacity, validity or interpretation of a will, seeking guidance from a solicitor will ensure a proper resolution. Solicitors are used to managing disputes such as contentious probate all the time, so they can best handle your case with this experience and emotional detachment.

Managing concerns about inheritance tax

Understanding and addressing potential inheritance tax liabilities requires specialised knowledge possessed by solicitors. Inheritance tax rules and laws can be tricky to fully understand and get right. If you get it wrong, it can prove costly for everyone involved.

Handling international properties or other foreign assets adds another layer of complexity best managed by professionals experienced in this area.

Most individuals who are not trained in law are largely unfamiliar with the rules of probate, legal procedures and administrative requirements. Solicitors can guide you through the process and ensure you understand each checkpoint.

How much will a solicitor charge for a probate?

Obtaining a Grant of Probate involves a mandatory probate fee determined by the Probate Registry. This is £273 for all applications, whether you choose to do it yourself or get help from a solicitor.

It is important to note that there are certain circumstances where obtaining a Grant of Probate may not be necessary. 

For example, if the value of an estate is below £5,000 (an excepted estate), most financial institutions typically do not require a Grant of Probate to release funds. 

Furthermore, when assets are jointly held between individuals, probate often becomes unnecessary as these assets automatically transfer to the surviving spouse or civil partner. Understanding and recognising these exemptions can help simplify and streamline the probate process while managing associated costs involved in settling an estate.

When considering legal assistance for handling probate, it is crucial to understand how solicitors structure their fees. Many solicitors base their charges on a percentage of the estate's value which usually falls within 2% - 5%, inclusive of VAT and third-party expenses. 

Some solicitors charge per hour, which can make predicting final costs difficult especially if unexpected delays arise during proceedings.

It would be wise to request quotes from multiple firms and providers. Opting for transparent fixed-fee quotes that align with specific work requirements will offer clarity. This way, you will know exactly what services are included in your cost and avoid any surprises along the way. 

Can you do a probate without a solicitor? 

Yes, It is entirely possible to do a probate without the help of a solicitor, however it is not always straightforward.

If you do choose to approach it on your own, you will need to submit an application to the Probate Registry. In cases where a will exists, it necessary to apply for a grant of probate via the PA1P form.

If no will exists, you must apply for a grant of letters of administration via the PA1A form. Additionally, regardless of whether inheritance tax is applicable or not, individuals are required to complete an inheritance tax form.

After approval of your application, you will receive a grant of probate and administration letters via post. This document outlines the probate process and will help you along with the process.

How long does probate take without a solicitor? 

The time it takes for a probate can vary significantly. If you are doing it yourself, and have a straightforward case, completing probate will take around 6-9 months. More complex estates or encountering disputes and issues with the will, may prolong the process to a year or even longer.

Navigating the legal and administrative requirements is crucial for timely completion of probate. Executors are responsible for tasks such as gathering and accurately valuing assets, settling debts owed by the deceased individual, and addressing any tax-related matters that may arise during this period.

It is important to emphasise that each estate has its own unique characteristics, leading to varying circumstances surrounding its administration. There is no one-size-fits-all approach in determining an exact timeline for probate. Executors must carefully evaluate their specific situation and consider seeking expert guidance if complexities arise along the way.

Work with a Lawhive solicitor today to get help with probate

If you are about to start the process for applying for probate or need support on matters relating to it, contact one of our expert wills, trust and probate solicitors today to receive a free case assessment and find out how we can support you and your family.

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