News and Events

The Importance of Legal Advice when dealing with Probate

View profile for Olivia Kersey
  • Posted
  • Author

The legal process of administering an estate after someone passes away can be complex and challenging to navigate – particularly for individuals attempting to handle it without professional assistance.

In this collection of legal blogs, we present a series of case studies that demonstrate the issues individuals may come up against when taking on the role of executor, without seeking legal advice.

Case study 1 – Mary

Mary is the executor of her late father’s Will. Mary’s father was divorced, and his estate was worth £400,000 when he passed away. The assets in his estate were a property and two bank accounts.

Mary's application

Mary was pleased to find that the banks were willing to close the accounts without needing any further paperwork. However, when she discussed selling the property with an estate agent, they informed her that she would need a Grant of Probate. Before applying for a Grant of Probate, Mary and the estate agent begun marketing the property for sale.

Mary embarked on the probate process alone, using online research to guide her. Believing her father’s estate was exempt from inheritance tax, and therefore that she did not need to submit anything to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), Mary applied directly to the Probate Registry to get a Grant of Probate. However, months passed without any progress, and every time Mary tried to call the Probate Registry, they advised her that she had to wait at least 16 weeks from when she submitted her application, before they could give her an update. Mary was concerned because she had accepted an offer on the property, and the buyer was growing impatient.

How things went wrong

Mary then received a letter from the Probate Registry advising that her application had been “stopped”. This is what the Probate Registry calls it when the application cannot continue, because they need further information or there is an error. In Mary’s situation, the Probate Registry told her that she  needed to submit a form to HMRC, and without this, the Grant of Probate could not be issued to her. When Mary told the estate agent of the delay, the update was passed on to the buyer, who then pulled out of the sale.

Speaking to a lawyer, and solving the issues

At this point, Mary sought the assistance of a lawyer. Unfortunately, due to Mary’s mistake in not realising a form had to be sent to HMRC, she had then completed the Probate application incorrectly. This meant Mary had to withdraw her initial application and effectively begin again. However, Mary had already sent the original Will to the Probate Registry, and so she was not able to send all documents together for her second application.

With legal representation, Mary gained access to expertise and guidance, tailored to her specific circumstances. The lawyer assisted with the application to HMRC and ensured the correct forms were completed to ensure the estate did not pay inheritance tax, and so that a Grant could be issued. The lawyer then guided Mary through the re-application process for the Grant of Probate. The lawyer was able to use their experience of the Probate Registry’s common practices to take the right steps to ensure the original Will held by the Probate Registry (which was sent with Mary’s original application) was linked to the new application to avoid any further delays. The application then progressed smoothly, and once the Grant of Probate had been issued, Mary was able to sell the property.

Summary: the benefits of professional legal advice

Mary’s experience highlights the risks associated with attempting a ‘DIY’ probate or estate administration and the benefits of seeking professional legal representation. By partnering with a lawyer, individuals can avoid common pitfalls, streamline the probate process, ensure compliance with legal requirements and keep costs to a reasonable minimum. As this case demonstrates, seeking legal assistance early on can save time, mitigate stress, often save money, and ultimately lead to a smoother process.

For expert legal assistance on probate and estate administration matters, contact BakerLaw Solicitors at We will be happy to provide details of the services we can offer and advise as to the next steps.



This case study is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are encouraged to consult with a qualified lawyer for personalised guidance tailored to their individual circumstances.