Sunday 29 January 2023

The C@W Probate Awards

I am just coming to the end of almost exactly a year's worth of resolving a family probate claim, which I tackled myself - seeing as how I reckon I can read & understand a form written in English  ...  and the solicitors candidly told us they'd inevitably be asking us to do almost all the legwork anyway.    

Forms?  Check the HMRC website!  Heaven help anyone who finds themselves dealing with some of the really complicated trust, and overseas-related, stuff.  Should these things take so long?  Well of course I know that a year isn't remotely unusual, so I can't and won't complain, trying though it is.  Inevitably these days, you find yourself dealing with a load of bots of greater or lesser "intelligence" - and sometimes real people too, ditto.  My dealings with various institutions (approx 20) have caused me to take names along the way; and so here are the top- and bottom-placing organisations on this sample of (let it be stressed) just one full process.

Bottom: Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, who were recipients of a legacy in the Will.  

I had read that this organisation has more money than it knows what to do with.  Well, it felt like that: and now it has more - and its delay between being asked for banking details and supplying them; & receiving the money and acknowledging receipt, were quite egregious.  Bear in mind that several other charities were also in the picture on exactly the same starting-timetable, so there's a comparison to be made.  (Quickest off the mark - which is entirely appropriate from every perspective - and very courteous with it, was British Red Cross, BTW).

Top: Barclays Bank.

Unfailingly prompt, competent, and in the early days actually quite ingenious in finding ways to make things go more smoothly, from a rather messy starting-point.  And pleasant, with it.  Thank you, Barclays.

These things are possible!



Matt said...

Any national scale charity is a racket run for the benefit of its execs.

Clive said...

Commiserations and well done for getting to the end of it. I did probate on my late grandmother’s tiny estate (as solicitor’s fees would have eaten into a big wodge of the value of the disbursements). As you say, OMG, the forms. Did you have the joy of visiting your local probate office ? — I recall having to do that to swear some oath or something like that. And there was just a single asset in the estate, cash in the bank. And two beneficiaries. Goodness knows how convoluted it would get with anything more than that.

The biggest improvement would be to simplify and explain for the layperson what information you have to provide and how it needed to be submitted. But I often suspected the opacity was a feature, not a bug, in order to deter most people from trying to manage the process themselves and resorting to paid-for legal advice. Which, once you know the in’s and out’s of the system, is money for old rope...

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

We are more like the French than we like to admit, in that both nations have legions of not particularly onerously-qualified functionaries earning a nice wedge doing stuff that's not so difficult - here it's the UK lawyers, in France it's the notaries doing what our Land Registry does but taking a fat cut for it.

Anonymous said...

A timely post. I'm at the beginning of the process for my brothers estate. Its mind boggling.
Any clues how to declare some obscure Russian shares that were delisted last year?

Nick Drew said...

Clive - no, haven't had to visit the probate office: dunno if it's covid WFH thing, but it was almost all done on line, with a couple of 'phonecalls along the way.

Anon @ 8:52 - I am absolutely no lawyer and therefore categorically not qualified to give advice. But my pragmatic suggestion would be that unless the value was (before the delisting) very big as a % of the total estate - in which case I guess you need professional advice - a pragmatic way forward would be to (a) declare a reasonable estimate of value at date of death, to put down a marker on the IHT forms; (b) get grant of probate and then (c) see what's to be done about selling them; (d) declare +/- after the event. You have some leeway to true-up after the event, as I'm doing right now with shares whose value changed between date of death and date of sale following grant of probate.

If any asset is totally illiquid, i.e. no transparent price to be had, you always need to proceed on a first-instance reasonable estimate.

If any C@W reader knows better, shout loudly because, as I said above ...

E-K said...

Dreading it and it looks like its coming to me soon.

The solicitor's fees in changing the will and getting Mum certified as of good mental capacity are quite substantial. £1,300 but worth doing as the will is likely to be strongly contested by the welfare assisted scrotes.

CJ Nerd said...

Re delisted Russian shares. It may be worth asking at Tim Worstall's blog as an OT question. There have been discussions there of how to trade Russian shares despite sanctions.

Anonymous said...

Re: Lawyers. Didn't Dickens write about this and their "ways"

Have to put a good word here for HMG who have attempted to streamline this process as far as HMG are concerned with their "Tell us once". They'll even tell you if there is a grant to bury people which comes as a bit of a surprise to those who have forked out for one of those payment plans.

Re: Charities. Not just National ones. There is a lot of job creation going on and "consultants" showing you how to word grant application, especially for charities that don't check if the money has been spent wisely. Every time I see the word "Charity" I check first.

Anonymous said...

Didn't word the above properly as those that have forked out for a burial grant are beyond caring!

old git carlisle said...

off piste but try dealing with DVLA on medical matters and driving license which is now de facto identity card.

E-K said...

Only if you drive, OGC. And it always was an ID card which you MUST carry when in charge of a car. (Not having one with you is an offence - just as being drunk in a pub is.)

In the police we used to deliberately pick on motorists because Stop and Search needed virtually no justification other than the Road Traffic Act.

PS. The price of my solicitor included new Powers of Attorney. I paid up because I need things water tight.

Graeme said...

I'm already 3 months into the Probate process. All the forms comp leted and just awaiting a payment reference, for which I applied 6 weeks ago.

You must be joking about Barclays. I had a joint bank account with the deceased but, as I never used the account, I never thought it necessary to apply for a debit card. After the death, I applied for online banking. I went into a branch to sort it out. After waiting 45 minutes, someone with a tablet came along, gave me some booklets and applied on my behalf. The pin duly arrived and I went online. However, it turned out that I needed a debit card. The bozo with the tablet hadn't told me that.

Off I went to another branch and, after another 45 minute wait, along came someone with a tablet. She applied on my behalf. "The card should be with you within 3 working days."

I waited a week for the card to arrive. Then I called the helpline. After a 20 minute wait, someone answered and I gave the full story. That person checked on his screen - possibly a tablet but I was not zooming or skyping - and informed me that there was a block on issuing the card to me although, by this time, the account was in my sole name.

What did I have to do to lift this block? Make an appointment to visit a branch. The first available appointment was in 4 weeks' time. I made the appointment and promptly wrote a cheque so I could empty the account and pay the money into a bank worthy of the name.

Barclays deserves to be ploughed into the ground and salted over. I reckon that as soon as its customers - who must all be pensioners to put up with such a crap service - die off, Barclays will collapse. But there's no harm in giving it a helping hand. The only time I have had worse service in a bank was when I opened an account with ABN Amro in Amsterdam.

Of the 3 banks the deceased used, Nationwide was by far the best. Lloyd's only took 1 hour out of my life. Barclays must fall

Graeme said...

Re the delisted Russian shares, unless you can find someone who is prepared to deal in them, either declare them at nil value or just leave them off the account. I suspect it will be like those Imperial Russian shares and bonds but at least you got a decorative piece of paper back then that you could sell to a scripophilist. Even if you have a contract note, it won't have much value to anyone.