After months of testing the government have launched online probate applications in the hope of making it easier for lay executors to apply for probate. While this new service is likely to be welcomed by many it is at the moment only open to executors who are working alone – so joint executors will still have to submit a paper application which may cause some confusion. This digital service isn’t currently open to probate professionals probably because these cases are likely to be more complex and throw up un-predictable issues that can’t be dealt with in a simple online form. The government website tentatively advises that executors should contact them first to see if the online form is appropriate for them.
Those executors who opt to apply for probate online should approach with care, particularly where the value of the estate assets and inheritance tax are concerned; if you make a mistake while managing or distributing an estate you can be held personally liable. Executors Indemnity Insurance protect executors against mistakes but ideally this cover should be taken out as soon as you take on the role which is usually the date of death of the person who has named you as executor; the cost of this insurance can be reimbursed from the estate as it is part of the reasonable costs incurred by the executor.
The probate service realise that the process of applying for probate can be frighteningly complex so as well as trying to provide clearer application forms they are also operating a help line service and it makes sense to take advantage of this if you are not employing a professional to deal with the estate.
For further information visit the Government website or call 0300 123 1072 – the helpline is open from Monday to Friday.