There are many things in life that you can either do yourself or hire a professional for, and although their services are usually sought at a time of grief, the services of a probate legal representative is not that different from hiring any other professional. You have to consider three factors; your skills, the complexity of the job and the cost of the professional.
Assessing your skills
Getting legal support is very much dependent on you and your skills. If you are a registered member of the Law Society and currently have some spare time, then, of course, you have all of the skills and expertise to carry out even a challenging probate case.
But, assuming you’re not, the skills that will be useful are strong organisational skills, particularly with paperwork, attention to detail and communicating with banks and the probate office. Before committing to navigating probate yourself, it is important to be honest and aware that, if you are experiencing grief, it is easy to become overwhelmed.
The complexity of the estate
Not all journeys through probate are the same, and some are so trivial that they do not involve having to engage with the probate office at all. The first step is to estimate the total value of the estate; if it is below £5000, probate is unlikely to be required. Even if there is no will, the next of kin and rules of inheritance will come into effect, and you would have to distribute the assets accordingly. Any form of legal dispute would probably be more expensive than the inheritance itself, and as long as the principles of next of kin have been followed, any legal dispute would be frivolous if there is no will.
Estates above £5,000 in value but below the inheritance tax threshold can be highly variable; they can be simple in the presence of a well-written will or if there is a living spouse. But they can also be highly challenging with assets having been spread out in multiple bank accounts in various nations or if there are in-laws, stepchildren or adopted children involved.
If the estate exceeds the inheritance tax thresholds, it is highly recommended that you gain legal guidance; failing to pay inheritance tax has legal ramifications. It is also likely that not all assets will be tax optimised. Additionally, if there is any dispute related to inheritance or the size of the estate, this would justify actions in court.
Some will-writing services, such as life insurance policies or savings accounts, will include legal advice as a perk of their product, so you should check these first when it comes to managing an estate of someone who has passed.
There are many ways that probate solicitors Portsmouth charge for services that can make comparison tricky. Many will charge a percentage fee of 1% to 5% of the total estate, whereas others will charge an hourly rate based on the quantity of work. Some charge both, but that does not necessarily mean they are more or less expensive. Furthermore, you should be aware that most solicitors will quote you a price not including VAT, so when hiring someone to manage probate, it is best to be cautious and hire those who are upfront about fees.