What to expect from a DIY Probate kit
Recently I have been noticing more and more adverts for “DIY Probate kit” claiming to be the answer to all your probate troubles! I like the idea of these kits and can see that having all the information you will need in one place would be helpful. Especially if you have little or no knowledge of probate it would seem a good place to start learning. So I decided to look a little deeper into what you will get from a DIY probate kit.
After looking around online and in stores, I choose 4 kits that were easily obtainable and offered several items. These Kits vary in price starting at £15 from WHS smith to £100 from a “probate specialist”. Considering the difference in prices I was disappointed that they all seem to be offering a similar product. Generally the packs provide a step by step guide, a checklist, executor letters templates and the probate application forms or links to the probate forms and/or example of a completed probate form.
The first thing I noticed is that 2 out of the 4 DIY probate kits offered the physical Probate documents (PA1 form) but didn’t make any mention of supplying the accompanying Inheritance tax forms which must be sent alongside the PA1. The other 2 kits provided links to the probate forms online. I thought this was a strange selling point as all of the forms required for probate can be found on the government website for FREE and can easily printed off at home.
All 4 packs contained a “step by step” guide to explain the probate process. These guides are the main selling point of the pacts. So it was interesting to see that the information in these guides was mostly information that you could find online for free from reputable sources. For example something that all the kits included was advice on what to do immediately after death, registering the death and handling the funeral. The government website offers simple and well explained information on all of these subjects for free.
The next thing I noticed is that these kits are specifically aimed at simple estates, “1 house, 1 bank account” kind of estates. This is understandable as probate is a long and complicated process and it wouldn’t be possible for every scenario to be taken into account. All of the packs recommend using a solicitor in certain circumstances where the answers are not provided in the guides. 3 out of the 4 recommended the use of a specific company, these being the companies that were endorsing the product or the creators of the guides themselves.
If you have a question about probate that you can’t find the answer to online for FREE then it’s probably because it’s a more complicated question than you think. This means there probably isn’t a black and white answer. Therefore the guide won’t be able to answer it and it’s in these cases that you are directed to get the advice of a professional or a solicitor. (After you already spent the money on the kit!)
One thing these kits seem to neglect is preparing you for the fact that there is actually a lot of work involved in applying for probate and in reality it does take a lot of man hours. It could be simple to do each thing on the provided checklist but these things take time and can involve a dozen phone calls and being on hold for hours. A lot of us don’t have the time to dedicate hours to waiting on a response from every institution and if you were to come across a problem those checklists just aren’t very helpful anymore.
As the executor you are responsible for the administration and protection of the estate and by agreeing to be executor you take on the liability. If you are to make a mistake at any time during the process it will be the executor who is held accountable and in some cases this can lead to lengthy and expensive court cases. Therefore if you’re going to DIY it’s important to take the time and do the research so you are confident in what you’re doing.
If at any point you can’t find the answer to a question or don’t know where to look it is recommended to seek the advice of a professional. You can speak to a member of our team on 08007318722 or send an inquiry via our website.