Should you do probate yourself?

The short answer is it depends. Probate often can sometimes be more complicated and stressful than expected due to the personal liability for settling debts and estate administration. If you consider a solicitor first, usually they charge a percentage fee of the estate. After debts have been repaid, this may leave less than expected to distribute.

The NBS is a non-profit organisation that provides free and impartial advice so you know you are going with the best and most cost-effective probate option for your situation.

Speak to us today for free and impartial advice on your options for probate.

We're here to support you to make your own informed decisions during difficult times, join the many people who have used our services:

DIY probate options

Option 1: Carry out the entire estate administration yourself

Option 2: Do most of the administration yourself but engage a legal professional for the key step of obtaining the Grant of Probate / Administration

Option 3: Engage a legal professional to carry out the entire estate administration

Pros to doing probate yourself

There is no fee to pay. Solicitors usually charge a percentage of the estate whereas others may charge a fixed fee.

It can be very straightforward if the estate is uncomplicated, i.e. it is an estate less than £5,000 in value, there are no debts to repay and there are few beneficiaries who all agree on the distribution with no disputes.

If the estate is less than £5,000 there is also no state probate fee. If it is higher, the application fee is £273.

Cons to doing probate yourself

As the executor, there are risks to accept which can increase with larger more complicated estates.

The executor will be personally liable for valuations of the estate and distribution between beneficiaries. Disputes between beneficiaries can be a stressful situation.

The executor is also responsible for all aspects of estate administration and debt repayments. If debts are not repaid, the executor may become liable for anything unpaid.

Any tax calculations and settlements must be made and paid by the executor within six months of the deceased’s death, if there are any mistakes and HMRC investigate, fines and interest may be imposed.

Factors to consider when doing probate yourself

The factors to consider that may influence your decision on whether to deal with probate yourself can be grouped under four headings:

1: Whether or not there is a valid will

2: The nature of the estate and debts

3: The beneficiaries involved

4:Your personal circumstances

If you are named as an Executor in the will you be entitled to administer the estate? If you are the only Executor, the decision whether to do the administration or to appoint a legal professional is entirely yours. If there are other named Executors who are living and who have mental capacity, you must reach an agreement with them about how to proceed.

Being named as an Executor does not force you to administer the estate and there is a legal mechanism for you to avoid this. You can either renounce your responsibility, which means you step back permanently, or you can step back from most of the work to allow another Executor to do this by applying for ‘powers reserved’ with the Probate Registry.

You need to be completely certain the will is valid in the way it has been written, signed, dated, and witnessed. You should be reasonably certain the person who wrote the will had full mental capacity at the time. You can be confident of all this if the will has been drawn up by a professional. You need to be more cautious with a ‘homemade’ will, especially if you have reason to think that someone may challenge the will and its provisions, for example, someone who was financially dependent on the person who died is not named as a beneficiary.You will want to consider if you know the other Executors, have a good relationship with them, and completely trust them. If a solicitor has been appointed as an Executor, which is quite common if they drew up the will, they may renounce their appointment if you want to administer the estate yourself, but they are not obliged to do so.Make sure you completely understand the meaning of the will. A professionally written will may use terms that have a very specific legal meaning, and which may not be the same as how the words are used in everyday language. An example might be whether money in a certain account is to be given to a beneficiary as the balance occurs on the day of death or as it was on the date of the will. The variation in wording is very small but might mean a significant difference in the value of the bequest.

A complex will, in the way it divides the estate and with many beneficiaries, will require a considerable amount of correspondence and work involved to ensure the legacies are dealt with.

A named Executor in a will has the legal authority to deal with the estate immediately. If there is no will (intestacy) an Administrator needs to be appointed by applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration which is the legal authority to deal with the estate.

Sadly, it is quite common that after someone has died, considerable debts are discovered.

Unfortunately, debts do not always die with the person who owed money and there is a set hierarchy of the order in which debts are paid and in what proportions. We wouldn’t recommend personally administering an insolvent estate. A solicitor may be able to assist depending on the details of the estate and the level and nature of the debt. In some cases, it is left to the creditors to resolve the estate. Please do call us if you want to discuss this situation in more detail – 0800 0246 121.

Beware – if you start to administer the estate and you get things wrong, you may find yourself personally liable for the debts as well as not recovering any expenditure such as the funeral costs. Very large and complex estates are best administered by professionals to avoid disputes over probate due to the high volume of work involved, especially regarding calculating any tax liabilities. Some estates will incur Capital Gains Tax and Income Tax, in addition to having to be assessed for Inheritance Tax liability.

If the estate includes a property that is to be sold, you almost certainly need to use a solicitor to deal with the conveyancing, so you may prefer to ask them to deal with the entire estate.

Estates which include businesses and farms, or agricultural land, are best dealt with by solicitors with expertise in these areas.

It is customary to write to beneficiaries early in the process of administering the estate to inform them of the death and that they will benefit in due course. Many beneficiaries do not realise that they are not entitled to more information until the very end of the administration process – when estate accounts must be agreed upon – before any payments are made.

Few people without experience in estate administration appreciate just how long the process may take and how little of that time is under the control of the person carrying out probate. Using a professional to deliver estate administration, even if you are an Executor, means they will write all of the correspondence to beneficiaries. You can also refer impatient beneficiaries to the professional for more information if you don’t know.

It is helpful to use a solicitor if there are beneficiaries with whom you do not have a good relationship. All contact with them will be done by the solicitor, protecting you from difficult conversations and correspondence.​People who have been declared bankrupt cannot benefit from the legacy of someone who has died. The money must go to the official receiver or bankruptcy trustee. If you suspect any beneficiaries are subject to a current bankruptcy order, it may be easier to use a solicitor.

You may feel that you don’t want to take on the practical legal tasks after someone close to you has died, as you already have to cope with your emotional reactions and perhaps those of family and friends you may be supporting.

If you don’t know the person who died all that well or hasn’t had prior knowledge of their financial circumstances, finding out about their personal affairs may feel very intrusive. Some decisions about aspects of the estate, such as the disposal of clothing or books which do not have significant financial value, may have been left in the will to the discretion of the Executor or Administrator. You could pass these items on to people who knew the deceased more closely, or they would hugely benefit various charities.​Alternatively, you may be too busy with work, family, and other commitments to administer an estate. You will need a reasonable amount of stamina to do so, as the process can take several months or even a year or more to complete.​Many people are uncomfortable with completing forms of any kind. Unfortunately, estate administration involves many forms for financial organisations, former and current employers with pensions, the probate registry, HMRC and DWP if the person who died was receiving state benefits.

You do not have to live near the deceased person to administer their estate. However, it can be easier if you do if there is a property to be cleared or to be sold as part of the estate.​Professionals dealing with probate have Professional Liability Insurance which covers them in the unlikely event that they make an error in the estate administration. Executors or Administrators who do probate themselves incur personal liability for any financial consequences of mistakes they may cause. It is possible to purchase insurance for personally dealing with an estate, but it is usually very expensive.

You can only claim expenses from an estate you administer, such as postage or essential travel. You cannot be paid for the time taken, however long that may be.

Once you have thought about all these issues and are confident you can carry out the estate administration, we suggest you type ‘probate’ into the search box of, where you will find all the forms you need and links to various pages with helpful information.

Get Help Today

Have you started probate online and not sure how to complete? Are you considering whether to do probate yourself?

The NBS offers free probate support services to all UK residents.

Call or send us a message and receive:

  • Free advice on whether probate is required
  • Unbiased support on how to proceed
  • The options available for your specific circumstances
  • Friendly advice from experienced experts

Don’t overpay for probate. Speak to The NBS today and discover what options you have.

How the NBS can help you

The National Bereavement Service works in partnership with a number of solicitors who are trusted to give a high-quality service to anyone wishing to appoint them, as well as to provide an honest and transparent fee structure. We do not expect any solicitor to encourage anyone to take out a service that is not needed and we can only introduce you to a solicitor with your consent. Whether or not you choose to use their service is a decision you should make after consultation with them and confirmation of their fee structure.

We want you to make the right decision for your needs, in relation to the estate you are responsible for, and hope this information will be helpful to you.