Think Probate is Stressful, Upsetting or Confusing? You’re Not Alone
14 January 2019
We recently spoke to Co-op Members about their experience of dealing with Probate. Of those that had been fully or partially responsible for carrying out Probate on a loved one's Estate, 39% said that they found it stressful, 21% found it upsetting, 19% were unsure of what they were doing and 9% had to take time off work.
We take a look at what's involved in Probate and how it's possible to lessen the burden at what is likely to be an already upsetting time.
Why Do People Find Probate Challenging?
Carrying out Probate on the Estate of a loved one is a significant undertaking, involving many hours of legal, tax and administrative work. This task comes at what is usually a time of grief, and as a result those involved are likely to already be going through emotional strain.
Who is responsible for carrying out the Probate work on the Estate of a deceased person varies depending on whether or not there's a Will. If the deceased left a Will, then this will have named an Executor who is the person responsible for dealing with Probate. If the deceased did not leave a Will, then the Rules of Intestacy will determine who should take on the role – this person is called the 'Administrator'. The umbrella term for this individual is the Personal Representative, so this is what we will refer to throughout this article.
The responsibilities of the Personal Representative include:
- Locating all of the deceased's assets and valuing the Estate
- Identifying any lifetime gifts that have been made by the deceased
- Calculating and paying any inheritance tax that's due from the Estate, along with any other taxes
- Applying for the Grant of Representation
- Identifying and contacting all of the Beneficiaries (including locating missing Beneficiaries)
- Selling or transferring the deceased's property and other assets
- Settling any outstanding liabilities (debts) on the Estate
- Distributing the remaining Estate to those entitled to inherit it
This work typically takes between 70-100 hours to complete, but this will vary depending on the complexity of the Estate. It's no wonder then that 9% of the Members that we spoke to told us that they had to take time off work to carry out Probate.
19% Unsure of What They were Doing during Probate
A worrying statistic is that almost a fifth of those who have taken on the responsibility of Probate were unsure of what they were doing. If any mistakes are made during the Probate process then the Personal Representative can be held personally financially liable for these mistakes, even if it was a genuine error.
In one recent case, the Personal Representative of an Estate failed to pay the £340k Inheritance Tax bill that was due from the Estate. Instead he distributed the Estate to the main Beneficiary, wrongly assuming that the Beneficiary would take care of the outstanding tax bill. The Beneficiary can no longer be contacted and the Court has held that the Personal Representative is personally responsible for settling the £340k outstanding tax bill to HM Revenue & Customs.
For this reason, it's really important that the Personal Representative fully understands their duties before they agree to take on the role. For more information, see Executor / Administrator duties explained.
Lessening the Burden
If you find yourself responsible for carrying out Probate on a loved one's Estate, then it's important to think carefully about whether you want to take on this burden alone. By instructing a professional Probate specialist, such as Co-op Legal Services, you can pass this responsibility into the hands of the experts.
With our Probate Complete Service, we can take full responsibility for all of the legal, tax and administrative work that's involved in the Probate process, taking the weight off your shoulders.