Probate is a wide ranging area of law and it can be a very confusing for non-professional executors to decide whether they need probate advice from solicitors. In many wills, the testator will appoint solicitors as executors and provide that those solicitors can charge for their services, but in the majority of cases where a will is left, the testator will appoint family members.
In some probate cases, where there is no liability for inheritance tax and the deceased had few assets other perhaps a property and few or no debts, applying for probate can be a largely straightforward exercise, where it may not even be necessary for the appointed executors to obtain legal advice. In those cases, some executors still prefer to have the benefit of solicitors filling in the paperwork and there are a number of law firms who offer a modestly and reasonably priced fixed fee service or you can now find online probate services also. In some instances, where a property is the only asset and there is a remaining spouse who is the sole beneficiary, it may not even be necessary to apply for a grant of probate, but legal advice should be sought to double check the position on this for the particular estate.
In other cases, with a complex estate, where there may be lots of assets or debts, inheritance tax may be payable or the will sets up trusts, executors really ought to be very careful. This is especially the case since there can be personal liability for executors who are negligent and issues of contested probate are inherently messy and, with families, often more common than may be envisaged.
Finally, there is the issue of an intestate situation, which is where someone dies without leaving a will, and consequently with no appointed executors and where the beneficiaries will be as provided for by statute. Many people do not know that statistically, over 50% of the UK adult population do not make a will, which is quite an incredible fact, so the probability of dealing with intestacy is in fact applicable in more cases than any other situation with a will.