Whilst you may have reviewed the process and feel confident you can submit an application for the Grant of Probate, there are various other factors to consider when deciding whether to take legal advice.
If you have been appointed as an Executor, the first consideration should be do you take up the role? Whilst you may wish to honour the testator’s wish, the administration of an estate can take several months and (in some cases) years to complete. This will depend on the assets contained within the estate, the provisions of the will and various other factors that can arise in respect of administration.
You will have an obligation to ensure that all the assets are collected, the liabilities and any inheritance/income tax due is paid and the estate correctly distributed. If you distribute an estate and then a subsequent claim is made, either by a claimant because the estate is disputed, or a creditor, then in certain circumstances as an Executor you can be held personally liable. There are steps you should, therefore, take to ensure that you not only act in the best interests of the estate but also to ensure that you protect yourself.
If the estate is subject to Inheritance Tax, then there are numerous steps you should take in order to ensure matters are correctly reported. Financial penalties can be rendered by HM Revenue & Customs for inaccurate information/late returns.
You should also ensure the funds held by you on behalf of the Estate are kept separate and you will need to open a separate Executor’s bank account. Before distributing, a full Estate Account should be prepared and submitted to the Residuary Beneficiaries so that they can see how their share has been calculated.
Once you have started to act as an Executor you cannot then stand down unless an application is made to the Probate Court. You should consider whether you have the time, skills and confidence to act. If you do not wish to proceed, you can formally renounce your role before becoming involved. As an Executor, obtaining the appropriate legal advice in respect of the administration of the estate is a legitimate testamentary expense which may be paid from the Estate. If you have any concerns about your role, we strongly recommend you seek advice from a qualified probate professional at an early stage.