Probate – costs and services (where there is no dispute)

We understand that the death of a loved one is a difficult time, with many important concerns and considerations. The required procedure can be unfamiliar. We also understand that every estate, and every executor, is different, and we deal with you on a personal basis.

A funeral has to be arranged; bills have to be paid. The money and property that someone leaves behind is called their estate. The executor is the person named in their will who has the responsibility to sort out the estate. If there is no will, or no validly appointed executor, the role is instead undertaken by an administrator who may be a family member who is willing to take on the task.

Whether or not someone has made a will, the executor or administrator will probably need legal authority to handle the estate. This legal authority is usually referred to as Probate, and the process of sorting out the estate is called administration.

We offer a range of services to help you through this difficult time. Our services can be adjusted to your requirements – from securing the Grant of Probate on your behalf, to assisting you with distinct parts of the administration, to completing the administration of the entire estate.

As every estate is different, it is impossible to specify prices to cover every eventuality. The information given below is intended to provide you with an indication of possible costs. After our initial meeting, and having secured a better understanding of the estate and your instructions, we will be able to provide you with a much more accurate indication of the costs that are likely to be involved.

We offer two main options:

  • A fixed fee Grant only service; and
  • Full administration of the estate based on the work involved (not a percentage of the estate)

More information is provided in respect of these, below. As noted above, where you wish us to secure the Grant of Probate on your behalf and assist with only some of the administrative work, this can also be arranged.

Securing the Grant of Probate / Grant of Letters of Administration only

Where the estate is relatively simple, and you are able to identify the assets and liabilities and wish to administer the estate yourself, you may want to instruct us to secure the Grant only on your behalf.

This service will apply where:

  • There is a valid and original will appointing executors who wish to act; or
  • There is no will but a surviving spouse / civil partner or adult children who are willing to act*; and
  • There is no dispute over the validity of the will or the appointment of the executors / administrators (in an intestacy) and no claim against the estate;
  • There has been no significant delay between the date of death and our instruction; and
  • You are able to secure the values of the assets and liabilities in the estate.

We will:

  • Meet with you to take your instructions and advise you on the steps necessary to secure the Grant. The work will be undertaken by the person who takes your instructions, so you can be certain of continuity and a personal service;
  • Advise you on the steps you may wish to take and the considerations as part of the initial administration;
  • Discuss with you some of the steps you may wish to take and considerations for the ongoing administration. Please note that we will not formalise this advice for your situation specifically unless you instruct us to do so;
  • Draft the inheritance tax paperwork;
  • Draft the oath (essentially the document that acts as the application for the Grant);
  • Meet with you again to:
    • explain the inheritance tax paperwork and secure your signature; and
    • explain the oath, followed by a meeting (arranged by us) for you to ‘swear’ as to the truth of the oath in front of another solicitor;
  • Lodge the application with the Probate Registry and submit inheritance tax paperwork to HMRC (if applicable); and
  • Secure the Grant and sealed copies for your use in the administration.

* Please note that additional disbursements and costs may apply to check for the existence of a will, as below.

How much do we charge for this service?

Our fees are primarily determined by the complexity of the tax paperwork that it is necessary to submit. Most matters will fall into one of the following four categories:

  1. Where it is possible to complete the shortened version of the tax forms (IHT205). Essentially where there is no inheritance tax to pay, and the assets in the estate are relatively straight-forward (houses, bank accounts, basic trust interest);
  2. Where the conditions in 1., above, apply but it is necessary to claim the inheritance tax allowance of a pre-deceased spouse (IHT217);
  3. Where the values are higher or the assets less straight-forward and it is necessary to complete a full inheritance tax account (IHT400), but inheritance tax is not payable; or
  4. Where it is necessary to complete a full inheritance tax account (IHT400) and arrange for the payment of inheritance tax.

The starting points for our costs for each of these categories are:

  1. £750 including VAT;
  2. £1,080 including VAT;
  3. £1,380 including VAT; and
  4. £1,800 including VAT.

In most cases where categories 1 or 2 apply, the fee shown will be what we charge for the application. Where categories 3 and 4 apply, any additional charge will be based on the complexity of the work involved. This may include, for instance, liaising with financial advisors to ascertain recent pension transfers, investigating portfolio details, paying tax from multiple accounts and so-forth. These costs will be discussed with you at our initial meeting.

Disbursements:

In addition to our fees, there are other costs payable to third parties (‘disbursements’). In every matter the following will apply:

  • Probate court fee: £155 (subject to significant increase in April 2019);
  • Sealed copies of the Grant (for sending to organisations who require to see the Grant): 50p per copy; and
  • Charge for swearing the oath (per executor / administrator): £5 plus £2 for each will and codicil.

Subject to your instructions, the following disbursements may also be incurred (please note that our work in respect of these is not covered by the fixed-fees mentioned above):

  • Bankruptcy searches (per beneficiary, if England or Wales based and not complex): £2.60 including VAT;
  • Undertaking property searches: from £3.60 including VAT;
  • Placing notices in the London Gazette and a local paper in respect of claims and unknown creditors: in the region of £300 including VAT;
  • Securing formal valuations of properties where required (please note that these are not required in every estate): in the region of £250 including VAT;
  • Placing searches in respect of missing / unknown wills: £114; and
  • Other disbursement specific to the estate. We will discuss these with you if they apply.

Timescales:

Where we act on a Grant only basis, our ability to submit the application is largely dependant on how quickly you can supply us with the necessary details. Where there is no need to submit the full IHT400 account, it is usually possible to secure the Grant within approximately eight weeks of instruction. Where there is a need to submit the IHT400 this can add a further two months to the application times as we must await HMRC’s confirmation before we are able to proceed.

Undertaking the administration on your behalf

Where the estate is more complex, there are likely to be disputes or difficulties between the beneficiaries, or you do not wish to undertake the day-to-day administration yourself, you can instruct us to administer the estate for you.

As part of this service we will:

  • Meet with you to take your instructions. The work will be undertaken by the person who takes your instructions, so you can be certain of continuity and a personal service;
  • Advise you in respect of your role as executor or administrator, and the steps we will take on your behalf and to protect you;
  • Secure the values of the assets and liabilities in the estate, and correspond with banks, investment providers, pension providers, valuers and so-forth;
  • Liaise with governmental bodies (such as HMRC, the DWP and local authorities) in respect of their requirements or interests;
  • Advise on and (depending on your instructions) undertake the administrative work in respect of any property in the estate (including, for instance, liaising with utility companies, local council and house insurers);
  • Draft the inheritance tax paperwork;
  • Draft the oath (essentially the document that acts as the application for the Grant);
  • Meet with you again to:
    • explain the inheritance tax paperwork and secure your signature; and
    • explain the oath, followed by a meeting (arranged by us) for you to ‘swear’ as to the truth of the oath in front of another solicitor;
  • Lodge the application with the Probate Registry and submit inheritance tax paperwork to HMRC (if applicable);
  • Arranging settlement of inheritance tax (if applicable);
  • Securing the Grant;
  • Collecting the estate money held in bank and building society accounts (subject to your instructions) and holding this on behalf of the estate;
  • Advising and taking your instructions in respect of the disposal of other assets in the estate (including, for instance, those that may be transferred to beneficiaries in specie);
  • Arranging settlement of liabilities of the estate (subject to solvency);
  • Correspondence with and identification of the beneficiaries;
  • Arranging settlement of legacies;
  • Preparing final estate accounts;
  • Reporting to HMRC in respect of income and capital gains made during the period of administration and securing confirmation of completion of the same;
  • Making distributions to residuary beneficiaries.

How much do we charge for this service?

Our charges are based on the time taken to complete the work on your behalf, based on our hourly rates (shown below). We do not charge you a percentage of the value of the estate. Consequently, the cost is based on the complexity of the estate as this largely determines that amount of time that we must spend on your matter.

As every estate is different, it is impossible to provide a quotation that will cover every eventuality. Having met with you and secured an understanding of the values of the assets, liabilities and complexities of the estate we will, of course, provide you with a clearer indication of the likely costs in your specific matter.

By way of indication only, our fees for administering a simple estate consisting of several mainstream bank accounts, a property that you are prepared to visit for insurance purposes and that sells relatively quickly, and two to four adult beneficiaries are likely to be in the region of £4,000 to £5,000 plus VAT. Where there are multiple beneficiaries, trust interests, foreign assets, complex investments, disputes, large numbers of accounts, missing wills, or similar, our costs will be necessarily higher. As noted above, we will discuss such anticipated costs with you at the outset of the matter.

Disbursements:

The same figures apply as listed above for the Grant only service.

Timescales:

In addition to the work that it is necessary for us to undertake, there are a number of additional factors that can draw out the timescale of the administration. The primary factors here are delaying distributions for six months after the issue of the Grant in case of claims that might be brought, and the need to sell property. Where there are no significant difficulties in selling property, it is usually possible to finalise the administration within approximately 12 months. Where there is a delay in selling a property, or other complications, the time taken can be longer. As with prices, these considerations will be discussed with you at the outset and on an ongoing basis.

Note – Conveyancing work:

Please note that our fees do not include any work in respect of conveyancing that is required on the sale or transfer of a property. Our Property Department can provide quotations for such work if required, and we would be very happy to liaise with them on your behalf if you wish.

Name Position Qualified Probate-specific experience Hourly rate (if applicable)
Keith Fensome Solicitor. Head of Private Client 2016 3 years £195 plus VAT
Carolyn Russell Associate Solicitor 1985 12 years £225 plus VAT
Emma Burton FCILEx+ 2018 11 years £195 plus VAT

+ Emma qualified as a Graduate Chartered Legal Executive in 2008. She secured her Fellowship in 2018.

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