There are many different types of solicitor in the United Kingdom. Whilst there are a few generalist solicitors, many others are specialists in one particular area of the law. Wills and probate is one such area.
What is a Wills and Probate solicitor?
A Wills and Probate solicitor is a type of solicitor that specialises in dealing with a person’s assets after that person has died.
Whilst the person is still alive, they can help them to draw up a document which explicitly states how their assets should be divided when they die. They may also be able to offer some advice on how inheritance tax may affect the will maker’s plans. This document allows the person to have control over the division of their assets, even though they are deceased. A good Wills and Probate solicitor will draw the document up in accordance with the law, so that the document cannot be challenged once the maker is dead. This includes making sure that the will has been signed and witnessed correctly.
Once the maker of the will has passed away, the solicitor should take charge of executing the will. After all of the formalities surrounding the death have been completed, they must first use the provisions of the estate (money from the assets of the deceased) to settle any official debts that the deceased had. This may include funeral costs, utility bills, home rental costs and any other debts which were registered in that person’s name. They must also make sure that all taxes are properly dealt with.
All assets above a certain value in the United Kingdom are subject to inheritance tax, so the Wills and Probate solicitor must ensure that due taxes are paid from the estate. This can become even more complicated if the will maker had illiquid assets such as property. In some cases, inheritance tax may also be due on any large gifts which were made in the years leading up to the death.
A Wills and Probate solicitor may also be expected to deal with the division of a person’s assets if that person had not drawn up a formally recognised will. In England and Wales, a person’s assets would be divided according to strict rules. Whilst there may be some flexibility, it can be very hard for family members to challenge these rules if an official will has not been created.
What skills should a Wills and Probate solicitor have?
Wills and Probate solicitors must be compassionate, as they will be expected to deal with people during a very difficult time. They should be flexible enough to go out to visit clients who may not be able to come to them for health or age reasons.
Wills and Probate solicitors must be meticulous, because they need to know about all of the deceased’s assets, so that they can separate them properly and pay out everything that is owed. These solicitors should also have a good head for figures, so that they can ensure that they are dividing all of the assets correctly.
How to become a Wills and Probate solicitor
Whilst many people become a wills and probate solicitor through the standard training route, many people also get there via the vocational route. Wills and probate advisors who work with solicitors do not need a formal legal qualification, and many of these advisors end up using their experience in the industry as a way to qualify to become a solicitor. Vocational training can take years to complete, but those who choose this route get a lot of experience in the field, which can enable them to be very successful.