Wills and probate: Myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings


Wills and probate: Myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings

The legalities of inheritance are often complex, long winded and intimidating for anyone less than a legal professional. All of which comes at a time when people may be in the midst of grief and in a frame of mind that is anything but prepared for the process of probate. So allow us to make a little sense of it all – here we tackle common myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings that swirl around the often-elusive topic of probate.

1. When a person dies without a will the government receives all assets
Unfortunately, as many as two-thirds of all adults don’t have a will, while a third will die intestate (source Slater and Gordon). Writing a will is sensible for many reasons, however people are misleadingly under the impression that not having a will, means that any assets they own or money they may have, is automatically granted to the government.
The only case where this would ever apply, would be if the relatives of the deceased couldn’t be tracked.

2. The process of probate takes years
The granting of probate typically takes around six weeks, after which time the executor will then be able to administer the assets (calling in life insurance policies, splitting property and selling shares, for example). However, what may add to the timescale, is where there is a significant sized estate, where there are family who are contesting the will, or where there are and will be ongoing income to manage. In addition a distribution should not take place until six months form the date of the grant of probate to give any debtors or claimants amply time to come forward.

3. The costs of probate are staggeringly high
There are more than a fair share of horror stories out there in relation to how much probate costs and the amounts that legal fees and court costs come in at. The short answer to this is that such cases are incredibly rare, and are usually related to cases where there have been relatives who contest the will.

What’s more in many instances, the splitting of an estate doesn’t require probate proceedings, and probate will only be required where assets are officially held in the deceased’s name, and their name alone. Further to this, if the value of these assets is under a certain value, the executor or executors can make legal use of probate shortcuts.

4. A person’s debts die with them
When a person passes who has debts, the executor of the will becomes responsible for ‘discharging’ any debts and liabilities. Debts will only ever be written off where the person in question has no funds following the administering of their estate.

5. A will is absolute
Wills can be challenged and consequently changed in court, for which there are many reasons that can be argued, such as whether the person was of sound mind at the time of writing the will. This point further underlines the importance of making a will with a professional, rather than using a ‘DIY’ will kit.

Need a professional helping hand with the process of probate? We remove the complexity and confusion with crystal clear advice and a service that can manage the process on your behalf when you need it most. Contact the team at IWC Probate Services, you can call us on 020 8017 1029 or email us via .

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