If you’re not a lawyer, then the whole business of Wills and probate can seem daunting. Even the legal language itself can seem intimidating and if you’ve never had to deal with the aftermath of a loved one’s death before, then the whole process may seem alien and bizarre. 
 
However, once you get past the initial perception of probate, it needn’t be all that scary and intimidating. In fact, the entire process is really quite logical; it simply requires a little time, patience and knowledge to navigate. 
 
The down-side is that the period immediately following the death of a loved one is certainly not the right time to suddenly learn how to navigate probate law. In fact, one could almost argue that it is exactly the opposite time to be learning this new set of skills. 
 
Hence, if you have appointed one of your close friends or family to be your Executor when you die, there are certain things you can do now to make sure the entire process runs much more smoothly for them when the time comes. Here are our top tips for making probate much more manageable, which you can action right now. 
 
1. Talk To Your Family About Death 
 
It’s the hardest conversation that we’ll ever have with our close friends and family but, in many ways, it’s one of the most important too. Yes, it will be an emotional and difficult discussion, but if you don’t talk to your loved ones about your death, then you are doing them a disservice. 
 
For one thing, just setting out the basics now will be helpful; what kind of funeral do you want? Do you want to be buried or cremated? Do you want a big do or just a few close family members there? 
 
You might think ‘well I won’t be there so I’ll leave them all to sort it out’, but whilst that might be strictly true, it can actually be unkind. Remember that, once you’ve gone, the people who loved you will be emotional and upset, so they are unlikely to make rational decisions. If you have already given them clear instructions about what you want, then it removes the pressure from them and can stop many an irreparable family breakdown from occurring. 
 
From the point of view of probate too, if you have appointed one of your loved ones to be your Executor, it’s only fair that you discuss this with them in advance. Set out what you would like to happen after your death, who benefits by your Will, how you would like your estate to be divided etc. This will give both you and your Executor time to plan for the events, which will then ensure the whole process can run smoothly once you’re gone. 
 
2. Be Aware Of The Finances 
 
Again, if you have appointed one of your close friends or family as Executor of your will – or if you have been appointed as Executor of a will – then it is a good idea to make sure you are all aware of the financial landscape. 
 
Once you have died, it will be the responsibility of your Executor to value your estate, pay any outstanding debts, find any outstanding creditors etc. and settle your financial affairs on your behalf. 
 
Hence, if you can make sure that your accounts are kept up to date and that your Executor is regularly updated on how things stand, then it will make the entire process much more efficient after your death. 
 
Alternatively, if you don’t want to regularly discuss your finances with your Executor, then at least make sure you have kept a written record of where everything is and how everything stands so that, when the time comes, your Executor will be able to access everything – such as bank and savings accounts - with ease. 
 
3. Keep Important Documents To Hand 
 
As with the point above, if you would like everything to run smoothly once you have gone (and why wouldn’t you?!) then it is advisable to keep all your important documents together in one place, in a clearly labelled folder and let your Executor know where everything is. 
 
Once you have gone, it will be the responsibility of your Executor to register your death and settle all of your estate, so they will need to be able to access all your important documents, such as your passport and your birth certificate, with ease. The last thing you want your loved ones to have to do is sit and trawl through all of your documents accumulated over a lifetime, just to find the one or two important things they will need. 
 
Hence, make sure the documents that really matter – including financial documents, such as recent bank statements and records of any shares or pensions etc. – are kept in a single place. And, more importantly, make sure you have told your Executor where that special place is! 
 
4. Learn About Probate Law 
 
OK, we’re not saying that you need to become an expert here in English Law, but if you just take the time to do some basic research then it will make the whole process run much more smoothly when the time comes. 
 
As we’ve already mentioned, the time immediately following a loved one’s death is not the best time to be learning a new skill, hence if you can do it before hand, there is much more chance of success and much less chance of unnecessary stress. Just taking an hour or two to learn the basics can save a lot of upset later down the line. 
 
So, for example, if you have appointed a family member as Executor of your Will, then do some research about what will be expected of your wife, son, daughter etc. after you have gone. If you do this, you can take the necessary steps required to make the process as painless as possible for them (such as following the steps in this article!). 
 
On the other hand, if you know you have been appointed as Executor of your Mum, Dad, Auntie’s etc. will, then, if you similarly take the time to learn about what you will need to know and do once they have gone, you will also be able to take the necessary steps to ensure you will be able to perform the task well when the time comes. 
 
For starters, there are some great resources available online, such as this DIY Probate Guide from Which, or these guides from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. 
 
5. Appoint The Right Solicitor 
 
Alternatively, if it’s real life advice that you’re looking for – if you would like to get some face-to-face, personal advice from a qualified professional – then you can’t do better than speaking to your family’s solicitor. 
 
If you have never thought about any of these issues yet, then now is exactly the right time to do it – before it’s too late! Your solicitor can help you to draw up an accurate and legally binding Will and can help you put all your affairs in order, plus they can also advise you on what you need to do back at home (such as we have mentioned above) to get everything ready for when the time comes. 
 
On the other hand, if you already have a Will, or if a Solicitor has been named as Executor in your Will, then they will be able to offer the correct and appropriate advice to you and your loved one about what will happen after your death. 
 
Again, it may seem tricky, but it’s much better to have these conversations now than to be faced with a massive surprise and an insurmountable, alien task once your loved one has died. 
 
Get In Touch 
 
828 Law are experts in Wills and Probate law, and we’ve helped many families in Preston and the wider Lancashire area to draw up the correct wills and navigate the minefield of death and probate. We can act as your Executor and take away some of the stress and pain for your family after your death, or we can simply advise and help them perform the task themselves, properly. 
 
If you’d like to find out more or would like to speak to one of our knowledgeable team, then you can contact us by phoning 01772 782399 or emailing angela@828law.co.uk, any time between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm. 
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