Your Probate options

Option 1: Do it Yourself

Some people assume that a solicitor or trustee company that is holding a Will has the right to apply for probate. 

Not so - you can just ask them to hand over the Will, and then apply for Probate yourself.  

"Self-Help" Benefits

The benefits of applying for probate yourself: 

  • you pay no lawyer fees or commissions
  • you can usually get Probate in the shortest time, and
  • your inheritance stays under your personal control the whole time, and you usually get access to it much more quickly.

The Probate Kit saves you about 90% of what solicitors typically charge merely to prepare and lodge your application.

When you apply for Probate yourself you have to lodge the application "in person" at the Probate Office in Melbourne. 

People from interstate can avoid travelling to Melbourne to lodge their application by getting an "authorised person" to do just the lodging for them, which costs much less than getting a solicitor to handle the whole thing for you.

Option 2: Pay a Solicitor

Lawyers (solicitors) have two fees:

  • FEE 1 is to prepare the application for Probate and lodge it at the Probate Office. The price rises with the value of the estate.
  • FEE 2 is to arrange to get assets released and then distribute them to beneficiaries. This fee is based on each "item" of work, and it varies widely, but is usually thousands of dollars.

If the lawyer also acts as an executor, they might also be entitled to claim "executor's commission" of 3% to 5% of the estate.

Unexpected Costs: There might be another cost in getting a lawyer to apply for probate, although it is hidden from view - it is the cost of losing the interest on your inheritance before it is distributed (for perhaps 6 months or more). Delay in getting your inheritance might also cost you.

Option 3: Pay a Trustee Company

Employing trustee companies is a very effective way of losing a big slice of your inheritance, because trustee companies typically take 5% of the value of the estate

  • Plus GST
  • Plus lawyer fees
  • Plus other expenses.

A quick calculation says it all: 5% of a million dollar estate is $50,000 - for something you can easily do yourself.
You would need a really compelling reason to choose a trustee company (including State Trustees) as a method of getting probate.

Some people feel that they have to use the trustee company that prepared the Will because in the Will the trustee company appointed themselves as executor (a practice that should be banned). 

We have heard of cases though where the trustee company agreed to family requests that they do not act as executor. In such cases the trustee company formally "renounces" the right to apply.

Our Recommendation

We recommend that you apply for Probate yourself (naturally!) because:

  • You save thousands of dollars in lawyer fees
  • You are the one who has to dig out the details required for the application (names, addresses, assets, debts, etc.) so you do most of the work involved anyway
  • It is the quickest way. (You have only one application on your plate - your own - so it gets 100% attention). You can usually have your application lodged in a few weeks.
  • The estate assets do not end up held in someone else's trust account, from which it might take ages to get them released to beneficiaries.

NEXT: Probate application basics