Job roles in law firms – will-writing and applying for probate on death

This article is part of our Job roles in law series which explores some of the legal sector’s practice areas and the associated job roles which may offer a starting point for someone looking to start a career in law.


A will is the legal document that specifies how a person would like their property to be distributed on their death. Probate is the process of dealing with the estate of someone who has died. This work is done by the wills and probate departments of law firms throughout the country. It is also closely related to the section on advising elderly clients.

What’s involved?

Will-writing involves taking detailed instructions from clients about their family members, their assets and their intentions, and creating a  legal document that represents their wishes. Probate practice involves working with clients following the death of a relative. The client can also be an executor, which is someone appointed in a will to handle someone’s affairs on death.  When someone dies it is necessary to gather information on all the property, financial assets and personal belongings a person owned and then apply to the government for a grant of probate. Only once probate is granted and all tax due is paid can the property be distributed according to the wishes expressed in the will of the person who has died, or under the rules of intestacy if there is no will.

What jobs are there for non-qualified staff?

There are a lot of opportunities to get into will-writing and probate work as an administrator or paralegal, since much of the tasks involves completing templates and writing standard letters, for example to banks and other financial institutions to gain valuations at death. The application for probate is also done on a standard form.

What job titles will be advertised by recruitment agencies?

Will-writing paralegal, probate paralegal, probate administrator, wills and estates paralegal, wills and estates legal administrator. Applying for legal secretarial jobs is also a good route into this area of law.

What CILEx units will support my application for these job roles?

We recommend that you enrol on courses leading to the CILEx Level 3 Certificate in Law and Practice (Probate Practice). As well as an introductory unit you will study units in Wills and Succession and Probate Practice. Have a look at the tables of contents to see what is involved. You will also study two professional skills units.

If you already have a law degree, you can achieve your CILEx Graduate Fast-track Diploma by studying Level 6 Probate Practice, Level 6 Client Care Skills and one other CILEx Level 6 practice unit of your choice, which we recommend should relate to a law unit studied as part of your degree. If you have not studied Wills and Succession as part of your degree, we recommend that you study this at Level 3 or Level 6 too.

What have other students achieved?

Susan Lynch started working as an unqualified legal assistant in the family department of her current firm and is now a Chartered Legal Executive.

Marie Townley worked as a receptionist and then a legal secretary before studying to become a Chartered Legal Executive.

March 11th, 2019|
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