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Online Probate – is it always a viable option to take?

Earlier in the year it was announced that a new online service to apply for probate would be introduced. This meant that those applying for probate could do so from the comfort of their own home, potentially negating the need for involvement from a solicitor.

To summarise, in order to carry out the wishes stated in an individuals will following their passing, their appointed executor is required to obtain a ‘Grant of Probate’ which means that that they can legally carry out the following actions:

                1) Gather any assets (e.g. money left in bank accounts);

                2) Pay any outstanding bills;

                3) Distribute anything that’s left according to the will.

Whilst, for many, the online service will be favourable – due to it, seemingly, saving time and offering convenience to those dealing with a bereavement -, it’s crucial to point out the potential pitfalls that could arise when making the decision to manage the application for probate yourself.

By using the online system you can apply, pay and swear a statement of truth however many people are not aware of the fact that should any mistakes be made, they could be made personally liable. Additionally, if the estate is more complex, the online probate process can easily become difficult to administer and involvement from a solicitor would be the recommended cause of action to take.

For example, if an individual had made the decision to leave all or part of their estate to a charity then, due to the legal complexities of charitable estates, it’s unlikely that attempting to bypass a solicitor and use the online system would prove effective, not least because charities have administrative requirements placed upon them by auditors that solicitors are able to understand and deal with efficiently.

It's also important to note that some banks and building societies will release up to £50,000 without needing probate, whereas others have much lower thresholds – ultimately, the decision is at the discretion of each organisation. This can cause confusion and means that its not always clear cut whether probate is required or not.

Unless your assets are all jointly owned with someone else - i.e. a spouse or civil partner –, the estate is just made up of cash and personal possessions, or is less than £5,000, the likelihood is that you will require probate. If you’re at all unsure or would like an expert opinion on the necessary proceedings, contact our team today.

We have teams of Probate specialists in Chesterfield, Dronfield, Sheffield and Mansfield who are here to help.

Kathryn Wheeldon
  • Director
  • Solicitor
  • Head of Wills & Probate

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