Thoughts on wills and probate

Thoughts on wills and probate

I have been asked about how to wind up an estate after a death and I have made a few suggestions to the executors before they get too bogged down in the detail. Where the estate is small and limited to assets in the UK, there is not much to make it complicated, so executors could do it themselves. I have offered to review the forms as they are completed, as one executor is a long-standing client; although the process itself is not complicated, the language is not clear to those unfamiliar with it.

As an IFA I have seen estate administration go horribly wrong, with multiple invalid wills, theft of the deceaseds assets, punch-ups at the funeral, people who havent talked for thirty years only communicating through solicitors, and then only to accuse the other of stealing, common law partners trying to sue for support and all flavours in-between.

So, if you want to go with dignity and be thought of fondly for years, what should you do?

(i)         Write a will. Use a solicitor or registered will writer for anything more complicated than I leave all my worldly goods to the National Trust. Make sure it is validly signed, witnessed and stored where it can be found on your death.

(ii)        Think about who and why you want to leave stuff to people. Wills can be set aside by the Courts if you dont make provision for someone who might reasonably expect it on the grounds of hardship. Disputing a will is a very expensive road for all concerned, so try and avoid misunderstandings.

(iii)       Within the will appoint suitable executors. Be very wary of fixed percentage deals to settle estates drafted by banks, solicitors and will writers, who will normally appoint themselves as executors. Most applications for probate are not complex, so can be done by lay people, but if the estate is large or complex, or simply, the executor doesnt fancy it, let them employ a solicitor on a fee basis and watch the bills.

(iv)       If you have strong views about your funeral, make them clear to your relatives or pre-book the whole thing with a funeral director and leave the contact details with your relatives.

(v)        Keep all your financial papers in good order, so they can be found and acted upon by your executors.

If you have an IFA, they can be very helpful to your relatives after your death. We can provide schedules of assets we are aware of for the executors, obtain valuations of assets, suggest a probate solicitor, provide tax planning, before and after death and finally provide advice for the beneficiaries on investment. If nothing else, ask us where to start and most IFAs will be happy to assist.

Lastly, a little checklist for you to consider:-

1)  Is my will up to date? Any new husbands/wives, children, grandchildren, assets, liabilities, trusts, name changes etc.?

2)  Who knows where my will is?

3)  Can my executors cope? Will they need professional help? Should I appoint some more, as the previous ones have died off?

4)  Is my life cover in trust? (and can be paid out immediately on death)

5)  Do I need to do some tax planning to avoid IHT?

6)  Got big expectations for your funeral? How will the organiser know?

From my experience, making sure your family know what you wanted is a sure way to reduce the stress for all concerned.

If you would like to know more about how we can help you plan and realise your financial goals then contact us at or call us on 01223 792 196.

The information contained is for guidance only and does not constitute financial advice. It is based on our understanding of UK legislation, whether proposed or in force, and market practice at the time of writing. Levels, bases and reliefs from taxation may be subject to change. Accordingly no responsibility can be assumed by Martin-Redman Partners its officers or employees, for any loss in connection with the content hereof and any such action or inaction.