Dangers of DIY probate

Recent figures published by the High Court have revealed a threefold increase in claims for the mishandling of a deceased individuals estate over the past year. The figures follow a surge in the number of DIY executors appointed by families to handle probate matters.

Appointed by a testator to carry out the terms of the will, an executor is responsible for distributing assets to intended beneficiaries. And with the recent increase in probate court fees it is perhaps unsurprising that many are seeking to cut costs by appointing family members or friends as executors or trustees rather than instructing a solicitor.

However, unfortunately not all executors can be relied upon to carry out the final wishes of the deceased and many families are now facing costly court proceedings as they attempt to recover assets lost after a mistake or even foul play by DIY executors.

Amateur executors who have no prior experience or knowledge of probate may perceive the task as simpler than it is, leading to costly errors and mistakes in the distribution of the estate. Sadly, not all executors have the best interests of the testator or beneficiaries in mind when it comes to distributing assets. Purposeful misinterpretation, theft of assets and fraudulent administration of the estate to favour one beneficiary over another are all claims that have been brought to the High Court over the past year, highlighting the dangers of DIY probate.

Although many families may view the appointment of a DIY executor as an effective cost saving solution the risk of error is a high price to pay. Issues such as inheritance tax, family trusts or the distribution of business assets can be very time consuming and complex tasks for someone with no previous probate experience to deal with.

Appointing a Solicitor to administer the estate of the deceased can therefore save time and money in the long run as they will have the necessary knowledge and experience required to ensure that legal affairs are dealt with and that assets are distributed accordingly.
Given that the time for processing personal applications has increased to twelve weeks, as opposed to two weeks for applications by solicitors, it is worthwhile considering appointing a professional to act in the administration.

Should you require any further advice in relation to this article please feel free to get in touch on 01535 613 662 or at jolene.head@awbclaw.co.uk.

Jolene Head
Solicitor, Wills Trusts and Probate

This blog has been prepared by AWB Charlesworth LLP as an overview of the legislation and does not constitute advice on any specific matter. You should not take any action in relation to it without taking detailed legal advice.