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DIY probate - a risky business

It is entirely possible to apply for probate and deal with an estate, without seeing a lawyer, but it’s not without risks, warns legal group, Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE).

Many professionally drafted Wills contain trusts to save tax, to avoid those who inherit paying care fees and to reduce the likelihood of potential disputes. SFE members have noticed an increase in ‘DIYers’ returning to them to seek advice when they have made a mistake or find the paperwork too tricky. Mrs A’s will had included a tax saving trust, but when her husband administered the estate, he paid the whole estate to himself. The solicitor was thankfully able to sort out the matter and avoid future complications occurring when Mr A eventually dies. In Mr G’s case, he sold some shares that had made a gain during the administration of his late sister’s estate and had to pay tax. If he had transferred the shares to himself first, before selling them, he could have avoided the tax.

Local SFE member and head of Blake Lapthorn's Succession and Tax in OxfordJames Antoniou, said, ‘People aren’t always aware of the complexities and assume probate work is straightforward. It is true that it can be, but it is just as true that sometimes it isn’t.  In all but the most straightforward cases, it is important to seek timely specialist legal advice that can actually save you money and worry.’

Many SFE members’ practices will offer to work in partnership with the deceased’s family to help and support them with the legal and technical work. As elder law specialists, members can even add value to their work, for example, by identifying cases where money is owed to the estate for care funding, which should have been met by the NHS and assist in making a claim.

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Find our more about how we can help with drafting and updating Wills.

Find out more about how we can assist you with claims arising out of drafting errors in Wills or a failure to carry out a testator's instructions

For further information or to talk to someone about a specific matter, please contact a team member in the office nearest you:

Rachel Brooks, partner and head of Private Client Services group in our Portsmouth office, on 023 9228 2714 or at

James Antoniou, partner in our Oxford office, on 01865 254286 or at

Fiona Fox, solicitor in our Southampton and Portsmouth offices, on 023 8085 7282 / 023 9228 2748 or at

Douglas Smith, partner in our London office, on 020 7814 5438 or at

Alternatively, email our general enquiries helpdesk on