When Mel’s mother Dorothy Richard died, Mel and her husband Gav decided to handle the probate themselves, without getting a solicitor involved.
So what is probate?
The West Australian public trustee has a good definition:
“Probate is the process of proving and registering in the Supreme Court the last Will of a deceased person. When a person dies, somebody has to deal with their estate.
“It is usually the executor of their Will who administers the estate and handles the disposal of their assets and debts. In order to get authority to do this, they usually need to obtain a legal document called a ‘Grant of Probate’.”
Mel has only one sibling, her brother. Dorothy had no debts and had stated in her Will she wanted her assets, less a few expenses, to be split equally between the two siblings. Both were happy with the terms.
“So it was relatively straightforward and fortunately, my brother was happy for us to do the probate ourselves,” Mel said.
Mel and her brother were lucky because her mother had talked openly about her Will and what her wishes were, before she developed dementia about two years before she died. She had forgotten by then that she had any shares.
“That saved us a lot of heartache. We had discussions beforehand that we would not have been able to have at the end, so I’m very glad we had them when we did.”
“Before she died, we were able to do a checklist with her. She had told us how she was planning to make the Will – and it turned out there were no surprises in it. She had had a frank discussion with us about share portfolios and her superannuation arrangements. She had her financial records all kept together, so when she said she had no debts, this was very easy for us to check.”
Mel and Gav live in NSW, so they followed the prompts on the NSW Supreme Court Probate website.
“The supreme court’s website doesn’t have a sign that says ‘Stop – appoint a solicitor now.”
“By doing it ourselves we saved about $5800 in lawyers fees – but be warned – you have to dedicate a good week of your life to filling in forms.
“The jargon is not of this world! But if you follow the links, and fill in the forms the way they say, all their links point you in the right direction.”
“Remember, you need a certified copy of everything so a JP is your best friend.
“Yes it was a bit daunting but by working it through ourselves and discussing it with each other, we learnt so much. We understood why things needed to be done a certain way.
“It was very empowering for us that we managed to deal with this ourselves.”
For an explanation about probate:
For the NSW Supreme Court’s guide to probate:
If you are dealing with probate and need some light relief watch Kitty Flanagan discuss her new ABC series Fisk, where she works as a solicitor for a wills and probate firm. The Guardian’s Luke Buckmaster gives it a review here.