When a person dies, someone else has to deal with any money, property or possessions they have left behind. This involves collecting all of those assets in, paying off any debts that the person owed, and then distributing what is left to the people who are entitled to it. Gaining the authority to be the person who carries out this task is called probate. Probate is granted by a court to allow someone to administer a dead person’s estate. This person is granted a deed of representation and is called the executor of the estate.
If the task of probate falls to you, it can be confusing, time-consuming and stressful, as there are many legal rules to follow and important facts to check. For example, you need to gather all the details of the person’s assets and debts, check their spending for a period of time prior to their death, and check that nothing valuable has recently been given away in an attempt to avoid inheritance tax. It can be even more difficult when the deceased has not left a will, as it will not be clear who the assets should pass to. The executor is responsible for all their actions and financially liable for any mistakes. This means that if you hand part of the estate to the wrong person, wrongly apportion the money or miss out a beneficiary, you would be liable for paying for the mistake yourself.
With so much at stake, it’s no wonder that many people choose to engage a specialist solicitor to help them deal with probate. Not only will this give you peace of mind that everything is taken care of correctly, but it can help ensure you avoid any pitfalls along the way.