Legal experts are warning people tasked with ensuring a loved one’s final wishes are met that failing to seek professional advice on the issue could be false economy.
New figures have revealed one in two people responsible for such issues do not speak to experts.
Research by national law firm Irwin Mitchell’s wills and estate administration team has revealed that 48 per cent of people appointed to handle a person’s estate after death do not seek specialist advice, despite the very serious consequences they could face if they get it wrong.
Now, the experts are calling on anyone charged with winding up an estate to not attempt to tackle the issue on their own.
Gillian Coverley, head of Irwin Mitchell’s Sheffield-based wills and estate administration team, says: “Being asked to work on the administration of an estate, and act as what is known as a ‘Personal Representative’, is a huge and stressful responsibility. It is also one which can require specialist knowledge to ensure it is done in the right way, regardless of whether the deceased made awWill or not.
“While some may feel they can save money by avoiding legal advice, our experience is that such an outlook can create a false economy. This is because ultimately, if they do go it alone and subsequently hit problems, then it can be more expensive to sort out the situation in the long run.
“Expert advice is simply the safest option to ensure that the estate of a loved one can be wound up as quickly, comprehensively and smoothly as possible.”
Coverley says common issues which can be created by failing to take advice include incorrectly distributing the estate and a lack of awareness of the tax issues which surround administering an estate. The latter in particular can lead to missed tax deadlines and potential penalty charges.
“Also, with specialist advice, they may be able to look at ways to reduce the burden of inheritance tax to the benefit of families and charities.
“Finally, without the relevant experience, people may often be unable to properly and thoroughly assess all of the assets and debts of the deceased – an issue in itself which makes it more likely that distribution of the estate will not be undertaken correctly.
“The consequences of getting such issues wrong can be serious and Personal Representatives are personally and financially liable for any mistakes they make.
“We have seen numerous cases where failings in this area can lead to both time-consuming and costly legal battles in relation to such matters being put right.”