3 Essential Steps to Successful Probate

It might sound strange to talk about successful probate. You’ve probably not thought of it in those terms before but if probate is not dealt with successfully it means trouble and possibly financial loss for the deceased’s family.

Writing on a clipboard

Of course, not all problems can be avoided or even anticipated but if you are the person responsible for applying for probate for a deceased person’s estate it’s worth taking any reasonable steps you can to minimise the risk of something going wrong.

Here are 3 important steps to help you get off to a good start…

Step 1. Take stock and don’t rush into things

Many people feel a sense of urgency when dealing with a deceased person’s estate.

Of course it’s an upsetting task handling the affairs of someone who has recently died, especially if they’re a much loved relative or friend. So it’s understandable that you might want to get the whole experience over with as fast as possible but rushing, for example, to put the deceased’s property on the market for sale or to dispose of personal possessions, can be a cause for later regret. It’s far better to take some time to reflect and consider your decisions carefully.

Now get organised…

Step 2. Make lists

It’s important to make sure you don’t miss any details, so make some lists.

Start off by listing all the of the deceased’s personal details. You will have to refer to that information many times over the weeks and months while you deal with the deceased’s affairs so it’s worth while having them all to hand in one list.

It’s amazing how, even with people we know well, there can be details such as their middle names, where they were born, parents’ names etc that we didn’t previously know. By gathering all those pieces of information together it will help the process of obtaining probate go more smoothly.

We usually ask our clients to complete a Probate Questionnaire before our initial meeting so that they can come with essential information at their fingertips.

Ask us for a copy of our Probate Questionnaire.

It is so much easier to deal with filling out forms or answering questions if you have a prepared list in front of you. This should be one of your first tasks and will be very useful in situations such as registering the death or speaking to the undertakers.

Create an asset list. It’s also a good idea to make a list of all of the deceased’s bank accounts and investments and any other assets you can locate. You can then use that list as the starting point to search for any missing assets for example, if an account or shareholding is mentioned in some of the deceased’s correspondence but there doesn’t seem to be any other paperwork or digital information, that should trigger you to investigate whether there are any dormant accounts or lost share certificates.

Of course, if the deceased was an organised person they may have kept an asset log themselves to help in the event of their death.

Don’t overlook the obvious…

Step 3. Check if there is a Will

This might sound an obvious step, but many families are unaware their loved one has made a Will and simply assume there isn’t one. Some people are very secretive about their Wills. But, if the deceased’s assets are distributed incorrectly because their relatives are in the dark about the existence of a Will the consequences may be very serious.

Even if you can’t find any trace of a Will amongst the deceased’s personal papers and enquiries made with solicitors the deceased was known to have used in the past draw a blank, it is risky to assume that there isn’t a Will in existence.

More extensive enquiries should be made and a good place to start is with the Certainty National Will Register who can search their database of registered Wills for a fee and contact all solicitors firms in the locality where the deceased was living at the time of their death to check whether any of them are storing a Will for the deceased.

We encourage our clients to register their Wills so the documents can be found more easily.

We offer a 50% discount on the standard Will registration fee through our partnership with Certainty National Will Register plus FREE Will storage.

Ask us about Will registration and you can have a complementary Will Review too. Ask now

To get more extensive tips and support join our membership service

BE My Own Lawyerit’s Free!