LEGAL advice from Heather Lally, associate solicitor at FDR Law, specialising in estates, trusts, court of protection, powers of attorney and wills

Question: Should I instruct solicitors to administer an estate?

Answer: The important thing is to take advice. You are free to choose who advises you, advice doesn’t have to be from who drafted the Will.

A solicitor will ascertain the assets and liabilities of the estate, who the beneficiaries are, relationships amongst the people in question and whether there is likely to be any challenge to the estate.

There may be disgruntled relatives or beneficiaries, potential creditors to the estate or good reasons to seek to vary the terms of a will by deed, perhaps for tax purposes.

A solicitor will address queries regarding state benefits received in the deceased’s lifetime and will finalise the pre-death and post death tax affairs correctly. Certain estates must now be registered online for tax purposes. It is important that deadlines are not missed to avoid HM Revenue & Customs issuing penalties and interest.

Estates valued under £5,000 follow the small estates procedure and may include only nominal funds in banks (or joint assets that pass by survivorship).

A solicitor may not need to be involved here, particularly if the executor is also the sole beneficiary. If there are multiple beneficiaries, the executor is liable to ensure correct administration and distributions take place.

High value estates, with a variety of assets, buildings / land held in a sole name or in beneficial shares, are likely to need a grant of probate (the legal document to encash/transfer assets). There may be inheritance tax to pay, reliefs and allowances to be claimed or complex trusts involved.

Executors who have attempted to administer an estate themselves, cannot stand down, as they are regarded as having 'intermeddled' in the estate. So, it is important to know what is involved at the outset.

You can appoint a solicitor to administer the estate for you, you still approve and sign all documentation but protect yourself, ensuring that all matters are finalised correctly.

To discuss estate, wills, trusts, powers of attorney or court of protection matters contact Heather Lally on 01928 739300 or email Heather.Lally