Probate and home-made wills

A colleague was recently consulted by an elderly lady about making a lasting power of attorney. When asked about her will the client proudly produced something which she herself had done. She had gone to WH Smith and bought a will form.

She had done very well with the gifts of jewellery and other personal items to her favourite grandchildren, nieces and so on. Unfortunately she had left blank the part of the form dealing with the rest of her estate. This lady was mentally alert and quite remarkably “on the ball” in all sorts of ways. Mistakes like this can easily be made and there really is no substitute for consulting a solicitor.

Mistakes can be eliminated and all relevant circumstances and facts surrounding the client’s affairs can be reviewed. At the same time the choice of executors can be seriously considered. Usually it will be an adult son or daughter or other family member who should best be able to carry out the work involved in obtaining probate and ensuring that the estate is distributed in the most efficient and cost effective manner.

I mentioned the situation when a solicitor or other professional is appointed as executor earlier and there are sometimes good reasons to do so but I think the main fact to remember is that family members appointed executors do not have to carry out the legal and administration work themselves. They can look at the alternatives and then select the best probate service for their particular situation.

If you dad has made a will himself (or anyone else for that matter) it may be tempting to then do the probate work yourself. The reality is that home-made wills can be more difficult to deal with than a simple, solicitor drafted will as there may be mistakes which aren’t obvious – this is perhaps more of a danger where there are beneficiaries with disparate ideas about what should happen or a charity is involved (pursuing potential legacies in wills has become somewhat of an industry for some of the larger charities).

The cost of a using a probate solicitor might be less than you think.

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