Dealing with probate can range from being fairly straightforward, in legal and practical terms, to being highly complex, so the first thing to do, if you are an executor or an administrator, is to try and establish whether the deceased’s estate is complex or otherwise.
If, for example, the deceased left a will which is fairly simple, with no trusts, his or her assets do not exceed the IHT threshold, there are not significant debts or complex issues like investment portfolios, then the estate might be considered reasonably straightforward and this in turn, should lead to consideration of whether legal or other professional advice should be obtained to help with the probate process or not. Always also worth checking the will to see if it allows the executor to obtain legal help and pay for it, or otherwise important to get the go ahead to do this from the beneficiaries or main beneficiaries.
Once you have established the estate is not complex, be aware that some lawyers, banks or other professionals who offer probate advice and services seek to charge a fee based on a percentage of the value of the estate.
Even if that fee is, say, 2% of the estate value, with an estate of typically £200,000.00 that’s still £4,000.00. Does the work involved justify that fee or is it worth going with a firm that offers flexible probate advice on an hourly rate or fixed fee basis ? Many more progressive law firms do differentiate between work needed on various different kinds of probates and having assessed what’s involved, can offer a fixed fee for the more straightforward work types.
Even with the most basic of probate work, the forms involved and process can be complex and intimidating for the novice, which is another reason for possibly using professionals to help, especially if you have just lost a close family member and are in the initial grieving process. But another option is a new breed of online legal service such as My lawyer which offers interactive probate forms with detailed and practical guidance notes, together with the option of further lawyer review of the documents you create at an affordable cost. Well worth having a look at what they offer as a possibility.
In summary, find out first how complex the estate is and it’s value, then assess the options for getting advice, don’t be afraid to ask about how a percentage can be justified if that’s the offer and also, with low value or simple estates, possibly consider the technology options available.