Probate – Can you afford to take the risk?

Many people who are appointed as executors under a will know that their duties include administering an estate in accordance with the will to ensure that the beneficiaries receive what they have been left.

However, wills can be complicated documents and the law surrounding wills and probate is, to put it kindly, quite old. While wills do not have to be complicated documents they often are and mostly this is for a good reason.

For example, the will may include provisions to ensure children from first marriages inherit their parents’ share of the estate, to protect minor beneficiaries and sometimes to protect beneficiaries from themselves or from others taking advantage of them.

What can happen by complicating the will?

This can mean that the will is complicated and not always as straightforward as may appear. Examples we have seen include a will where money was to be invested for an individual for his life time with the capital going to someone else in the future.

Sadly, the executors did not realise the significance of this clause and paid the capital to someone who was not entitled to receive it. Fortunately, it was returned once the situation was explained but the executors would have been personally liable to the other beneficiaries if it had not been returned.

The executors would have been entitled to sue for the return of the money, but this could well have been costly and time-consuming, and of course, would have added extra stress to what is otherwise a difficult time.

Few people seem to know that executors may be personally liable throughout the administration of an estate. They are not just liable to beneficiaries, should they fail to deal with the tax affairs of the deceased be it inheritance tax, income tax or capitals gain tax they can be liable to HMRC personally for failing to deal with matters. These tax bills can sometimes run into thousands of pounds.

How can a solicitor help?

Taking advice from a Solicitor can ensure that all your obligations as an executor are fulfilled so that not only are the wishes of the deceased carried out completely and correctly but also you are protected from claims against you for failing to administer the estate properly.

Administering an estate fully and correctly can take time and if you are doing this around a busy life, sometimes even the most simple things can be overlooked. Using a Solicitor who specialises in this area can ensure that this does not happen.

Obtaining legal advice may appear expensive, especially with the complexities of modern finances and complex family situations; however, with your family finances at risk if you do not fulfil your obligations correctly, can you afford to take the risk?

For further advice on the administration of estates, Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney and other private client matters, contact Andrew Jack or one of his fellow probate solicitors in Bristol by calling 0117 962 1205 or email our team at

This article is provided for general information purposes only and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at the date of uploading. This article should not be relied upon as legal advice pertaining to any specific factual situation. Legal decisions should be made only after proper consultation with a legal professional of your choosing.

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