Administering an estate and navigating the probate application process is a big, complicated job that often involves a lot more work than expected. Not only are there a whole range of forms, payments and deadlines to keep on top of, there can also be a lot of conflicting advice to weigh up.
Of course, it’s also important to note that not only do personal representatives have to take on a complicated, time-intensive task filled with legal terminology, they’re also expected to do so during a time of bereavement. It’s unsurprising, then, that many personal representatives find the process overwhelming.
If you’re in the middle of dealing with probate, you might be keen to find ways to make it a little easier to manage. Below we’ve shared some suggestions you may wish to consider.
Seek out good advice
When there is so much information around on a subject and so many people who will want to share the benefit of their experience, it can be difficult to know which suggestions to follow. We recommend seeking out a trustworthy source of information to use as a guide.
You may wish to start by seeking personalised advice from a specialist probate solicitor to set you on the right path, or you may find a resource like our complimentary ebook What to Do When Someone Dies helpful.
Make sure you understand the timeline
There isn’t a hard deadline for when the probate process should be completed, but personal representatives are usually expected to do so within 365 days. (This is what’s known as the ‘executor’s year’.) Though it may be tempting to put off starting the probate process during the first months after a loss, doing this can cause problems later on.
Even once an application has been submitted for a Grant of Probate, it can take three or more months for that application to be processed. This can result in a significant delays to being able to do things such as access bank accounts or sell property belonging to an estate.
It’s also vital to keep in mind that if there is any inheritance tax to be paid, this will come due by the end of the sixth month after the death. Missing this due date will usually result in added costs.
Try and stay organised
We all know that being organised is helpful when you’re trying to stay on top of a big task, but this is likely to be even more vital during such a difficult process. The grieving period can be a confusing time with a great deal to think about and work through. With this in mind, we’d recommend making detailed notes about any advice received or actions taken in case it’s difficult to remember later. It’s also well worth using an efficient filing system to ensure all paperwork is kept safely together.
Share the workload
If you have been appointed as an executor jointly with another individual or group of individuals, make sure you make a clear plan about how tasks are to be shared out. Regular catch up sessions can help to ensure everyone is keeping up with their tasks and that you’re all aware of any developments.
If you’ve been appointed as an administrator or are the only executor, you can still look for ways to share the workload. Though you will have overall responsibility for the process, you can still ask family members and friends to lend a hand. You can also seek out professional support with certain aspects of the process. For example, you could use professional services to help with:
- Valuing and selling belongings.
- House clearances.
- Finances and accounts.
Get legal support
One of the key ways you can reduce your workload and make the probate process more easily manageable is to seek specialist legal support. A probate solicitor will be able to take on much of the process on your behalf. Not only will this lift a great deal of stress and work off your plate, it will also ensure that everything is dealt with thoroughly, efficiently and according to probate law.
In most cases, legal fees can be paid from money belonging to the estate before it’s distributed to beneficiaries. If you need to keep costs down, you could choose to work with a solicitor to support you through part of the process, such as applying for a Grant of Probate.
What if you really can’t manage the process?
If you have been appointed as an executor for an estate but really don’t feel able to take on the role – even with professional support – it is possible to legally step aside. You can do this by ‘renouncing’ the role, which means that you will completely give up any legal responsibility to administer the estate. However, doing this would mean that you then couldn’t choose to be involved again at a later date.
Though acting as an executor is undoubtedly a very difficult task, it’s important to consider carefully before deciding to renounce the role. The primary consideration here is likely to be who would take on the role if you were to renounce it and whether or not you’re happy with that. This might be straight-forward if there are other executors. If not, another interested party (such as a close family member or a beneficiary of the Will) would need to apply to be appointed as an administrator.
Alternatively, you could choose to step aside with ‘power reserved’. In this case, you would still be choosing not to be involved with the day to day process of probate, but you would retain the right to get involved later on should you decide to do so. This might be the right decision for you if you felt unable to deal with probate in the time straight after the bereavement but hoped to be able to be involved in the later stages. If circumstances changed, you could choose to apply for a grant of double probate later on.
How Roche Legal can help
We are reassuring experts who can help you with a wide range of legal matters. Please get in touch if you need legal support with:
- Trusts and Estate Planning
- Probate and Estate Administration
- Contested Probate and Will Disputes
- Powers of Attorney
- Court of Protection matters
- Presumption of Death Applications
- Missing Persons Guardianship Applications
Need further help?
If you would like to discuss how we can assist, please contact us.