Kevin O'Higgins Solicitors

Question of the week: Widow's worries over high cost of Probate

Sunday, 11 January, 2015
The Irish Independent

MY husband died last year. We had made wills leaving everything we had to each other, with instructions for bequests to the family afterwards. My name was on the deeds to the house we live in but we also owned a small farm and I only lately discovered that my name is not on the Folio.

I asked my solicitor if I could rectify this and he told me that it would cost ?4,000. I am an old age pensioner and I haven't got that kind of money. Now I have heard that a person can take out administration if they can go through the proper channels at a much reduced figure. I wonder if you can help with this.

I am not too worried if this is time-consuming and onerous as I am a former civil servant and I may be able to navigate my way through the system.

A.

Basically, you have to make a decision and only your knowledge of your husband's affairs can lead you to the correct decision. You refer to this small farm which, on its own, might not be worth taking on the cost which your solicitor has mentioned. Or there may be other assets in your husband's estate which may justify the cost. If the small farm is not important in the scheme of things, you can always let the matter rest and let your family worry about it after your death.

A solicitor will advise that you seek a grant of administration on your late husband's estate. The family home is yours by right of survivorship. An application will need to be lodged with the Probate Office and in time a grant of Probate will issue. You can lodge this Grant of Probate with the Land Registry.

Normally this work is carried out by a solicitor, whose costs will be levied as a percentage of the value of the estate. If you do not have the funds to meet this cost, then you should talk to the executor of your late husband's estate who may be in a position to get the work done.

Obtaining Grant of Probate is not an easy matter, particularly if your late husband's affairs were rather complicated UK shares, for example, are extremely messy. Overdue tax can arise. If you and the executor want to take it on, we wish you well.

As a general rule, this case highlights the need to have the main family assets held in joint names of husband and wife. By putting assets in joint names on which stamp duty does not apply couples can avoid the difficulty which you have encountered.

JA