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A guide to the probate process and estate administration

Having to handle a loved one’s estate after they have passed is a challenging time, not least because you are already experiencing an emotionally distressful period.

While it is not something you want to be handling while grieving, estate administration is extremely important and needs to be handled properly.

Rachel Blackburn, Head of our Wills, Probate and Older Client Services, sheds light on the challenges that estate administration brings, and delves into making and updating a Will.

The importance of estate administration

When a loved one passes away, the process that follows is known as estate administration. This involves handling the deceased’s legal, financial, and personal affairs. Rachel states that the key steps include:

  • Identifying the deceased’s assets and liabilities
  • Obtaining probate, if necessary
  • Distributing the estate according to the deceased’s Will or, in the absence of a Will, through the rules of intestacy

Challenges in estate administration

Two main challenges often arise in the process:

  1. Locating the Will – The first hurdle is either not being able to find a Will or not knowing if one exists. This is crucial as it significantly impacts how the estate is dealt with and distributed.
  2. Identifying assets – Many people are unaware of the full extent of their loved one’s assets, leading to a lengthy process of discovery.

To deal these challenges, Rachel advises clients to keep their paperwork in order and even write a list of assets, which can serve as a helpful starting point for estate administration.

The pitfalls of intestacy

If a person dies without a Will, the laws of intestacy apply. This can be particularly problematic in cases involving strained family relationships, divorces, or marriages. It is essential to establish a correct family tree to ensure the right beneficiaries are identified and the estate is administered correctly.

Making and updating a Will

Contrary to popular belief, making a Will is not overly complicated, especially when done through a solicitor. They guide you through the process, discussing your family circumstances, estate, and wishes. However, it is crucial to update your Will in the event of significant life changes like divorce, marriage, or changes in financial circumstances.

What can invalidate a Will?

Several factors can render a Will invalid:

  • Improper execution or signing
  • Lack of mental capacity at the time of making the Will
  • Undue influence or coercion
  • Marriage, unless specific clauses are included in the Will

How often should you review your Will?

Rachel recommends reviewing your Will every five years or sooner if there are significant changes in your life circumstances.

The risks of DIY Wills and probate

While online platforms offer DIY wills and probate services, Rachel warns against them. The lack of expertise can lead to errors, legal challenges, and even personal liability for incorrect estate distribution. Solicitors can navigate the complexities efficiently, saving you time and stress during an emotionally challenging period.

For more advice from Rachel and her team, contact us today. A full podcast with Rachel regarding this subject is now available to listen to.

Rachel Blackburn

Head of Wills, Probate and Older Client Services

I joined Mander Hadley’s Wills, Probate and Older Client Services Team in 2018.I specialise in the preparation of Wills, Probate and estate administration, trusts and trust administration and Lasting Powers of Attorney. I also have experience of care fee planning and appeals of Continuing Health Care decisions.