Inheritance warning: Brits told probate costs may snowball – how to leave 'ultimate gift'

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Inheritance issues can create unnecessary grief for individuals at an already challenging time, which many people will be hopeful to avoid when someone they love eventually passes away. Lots of Britons will be saving not only for later life, but also to pass gifts on to their family members and friends to provide them with a helping hand later down the line. This kind of action can create a legacy long after a person has died, an aim many are looking to achieve. However, individuals can often lose track of their assets, whether this be savings, a pension, or otherwise, over time. Circumstantial changes such as moving home, changing name or simply forgetting about administrative duties can have an impact. 

But it is important to note that this could create issues once a person has passed away, which could be difficult, and indeed expensive, to overcome. 

Express.co.uk spoke to Ian Dibb, Founder and CEO of online platform Once I’ve Gone, who offered further insight into some of the complications which may ensue for people who do not take action on their estate. 

He said: “I speak to people all the time where there are huge problems when it comes to managing their assets and finances, and they really do wish they had taken action six months ago, for example. 

“Because reports state probate specialists say that in 25 percent of cases they look after, they struggle to find all our financial accounts. That means there are one in four estates where significant issues may arise with finding assets, tracking them down and acting on them.

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inheritance warning probate

Inheritance warning: Brits told probate costs may snowball – how to leave ‘ultimate gift’ (Image: Getty)

“What that means is that it is an issue not only for those organisations, but also for the families who are involved in inheriting whatever a person has left behind in the form of assets.”

Data shared with Express.co.uk from Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) seemed to show the extent of the problem many people feel exists with the probate system as it currently stands throughout England and Wales.

Some 76 percent of respondents in June/July 2021 stated they believe the current probate system is not adequate, with 93 percent of members saying they have noticed delays. 

Many respondents experienced delays with the system which were attributed to a number of factors including remote working, the outbreak of COVID-19, and the volume of applications submitted by people across the country. 

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But a particular issue, as also highlighted by Mr Dibb, was lost or misplaced paperwork relating to a person’s estate. If individuals do not have the affairs of the person concerned in order, then it could complicate the process much more than is required. 

Of course, the longer it takes for experts to find the assets belonging to the deceased individual, the more money is eaten out of the estate in the form of legal costs, which could be devastating for those hoping to secure a windfall. 

But these issues could be compounded even further, it has been suggested, by family disputes, which can unfortunately arise when a person dies. This is particularly the case if a person does not lay out their final wishes and the value of their estate, Mr Dibb stated.

He continued: “The upsetting thing for me is that when someone passes away, quite often it can cause family members to fall out, and sometimes in a massive way. I recently spoke to a lady where this was a huge issue for her family, where she’d thought the family was close and connected and loving, which is true, but it is often the case that if you throw inheritance and money into the mix, it can really complicate issues.

inheritance tax probate costs UK 2021

Inheritance: Many people wish to leave behind assets for their loved ones (Image: Getty)

“While some people can take control over the estate and the process can be a simple one, in other instances you can really have families break down and the damages really are long-lasting – they never mend. It doesn’t actually need to be that way. 

“By having an open and honest conversation and getting your affairs in order, you can avoid this entirely. Taking this kind of action means your family will be given a list of where everything is – savings, investments, pension pots, the lot. And it just makes it easier for everyone involved.”

Recently, research undertaken by JMW Solicitors detailed a sharp increase in enquires related to inheritance-based disputes.

The firm stated that compared with the previous six months, enquires rose by some 111 percent between October 2020 and April 2021.

With more people unfortunately passing away due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the problem could be exacerbated causing an additional influx for probate officials to deal with.

But fortunately, Britons do not have to simply put up with complications after their loved one passes away, and together with the individual a plan can be charted in order to make the process as simple as possible for everyone who is involved.

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Mr Dibb encouraged individuals to take steps ahead of time, and collaboratively with their family and friends to ensure the matter is settled, and give beneficiaries the best possible chance of inheritance in an easy way. 

He concluded: “We are all saving money, we all have pensions and savings, and mortgages and investments, and they really can be all over the place, and difficult to bring together in one place. But people want to take action because they have a family, and the heart of the matter is, they want to look after them.

“Looking a bit ahead and spending some time now and putting some preparation in place, you are really giving your family the ultimate gift. And knowing everything is taken care of financially means people don’t have to make difficult decisions they don’t have to, at a time they really cannot deal with.

“If you speak to anyone who has been through the grieving process, they will tell you your mind is not in the right place to make those kind of decisions in terms of what their loved ones really wanted.

“If you take these decisions, you can allow your family to get on with the grieving process, get rid of some of those extra costs, and help them have the knowledge they are doing exactly what you want. It really is about spring cleaning your life. It isn’t about end of life planning, it really is more about life management and having that information organised ahead of time.”

Mr Dibb’s platform, Once I’ve Gone, attempts to overcome many of these issues by helping people to make records of their final wishes, assets and other important information for their loved ones. Some individuals may also wish to speak to a financial advisor to get their affairs in order, and ease the monetary and asset based process once they are no longer here. 

William Murphy

William Murphy

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