Handling Probate — and when grief gives way to a battleground

It is always a difficult time when someone has passed away, especially if you find yourself having to sort out finances on top.

Whether you are named as an executor in a Will or even where there is no Will, you have legal duties and there can be consequences if you get it wrong including personal financial risk.

The pitfalls are many and not always obvious. Larger estates may be liable to Inheritance Tax with complex forms to complete, calculations to make and exemptions to claim let alone making sure the estate is accurately valued to the satisfaction of the Revenue. Even small estates can create problems and it can be very unpleasant to be on the receiving end of questions and demands.

Then of course there are the beneficiaries and the people who think they should be beneficiaries who are ready to fight for a share. Misunderstandings or withholding information can rapidly escalate matters into a full-blown dispute which can cost many thousands of pounds and much heartache to resolve.

Where there is no Will, the risk of failing to understand who is entitled could mean missing a beneficiary and getting sued personally later. Even when there is a Will it might deliberately exclude someone or fail to make adequate provision for example for a surviving unmarried partner, leading to legal challenges and claims.

In the face of all of this, the duty of an executor in addressing any claim against an estate is to remain neutral and failure to do so can result in personal liability for legal costs. Simply being neutral can be remarkably difficult to achieve in many circumstances and using an independent solicitor to manage the process should keep matters calm from the outset , will insure you against personal risks and most importantly with the benefit of their experience disagreements can be nipped in the bud or claims resolved quickly and economically.

Anyone handling an estate has a right to appoint a solicitor at the cost of the estate and invariably there is nothing to pay upfront with charges simply coming out of estate monies once they are available.

So, before attempting to handle a probate or a probate dispute alone, it is worth considering the benefits of having an experienced probate disputes lawyer on your side.

RMNJ are always glad to discuss any questions you have without obligation and at first instance entirely free of charge.

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