Our Pricing – Probate

If someone has died and you are responsible for winding up their estate as an executor (if the deceased person had a Will) or administrator (if the deceased person died intestate – without a Will) a process often called ‘probate’, we can help you.

We can give as much or as little help as you choose, from a short meeting to clarify the meaning of the Will (if there is one) and to explain how you go about winding up the estate, to handling the whole thing for you.

Please note that the costs estimates set out below (where they are not stated to be “fixed fees”) are just that – estimates. These are NOT fixed fees (unless expressly stated otherwise) and the actual costs may exceed or fall below the figures quoted based on the circumstances of each case (including the factors set out in detail below).

 

 

Initial fixed fee consultation:

For a fixed fee of £300 (including VAT), you can spend up to an hour with one of our experienced specialist solicitors, who will:

  • explain the meaning of the Will or, if there is no Will, how the estate is passed on under the Intestacy Rules;
  • explain when it is necessary, and when it is not necessary, to apply for a grant of probate (or, if there is no Will, a grant of letters of administration);
  • explain the basic steps involved in winding up the estate, and give you some practical tips;
  • (depending on how much you know about what makes up the estate and what it is worth) either;
  • calculate how much Inheritance Tax might be charged on the estate; or
  • explain how Inheritance Tax is charged on estates, and on gifts made by someone who has died, and on any trust from which they were entitled to benefit;
  • explain the rules for filing an Inheritance Tax return and paying the tax; and
  • tell you if there is any way to reduce any Inheritance Tax charge on the estate itself, or on the value of the estate in the future.

Call us on 01628 631051 or email privateclient@colemans.co.uk to arrange a meeting.

You will then be able to decide whether you want any further help from us and, if you do, we will give you a fixed quote or (if that is not possible) an estimate for that extra work.  Unlike some others, we do not charge you a percentage of the value of the estate – you pay only for the time we spend helping you.

After that initial meeting, many people feel confident enough to collect all the necessary papers and information themselves, but then ask us to check those and to prepare and file the tax and probate forms for them, for a quoted fee.

Work to administer an estate after the initial fixed fee consultation:

A very simple estate can take just a few hours’ work, but the more of the factors below which apply to the estate, the more time it will take and some complicated estates can take many hours of work to wind up.

The likely charges if you want us to handle the whole process for you, including valuing the estate, filling in the necessary forms, getting a grant of probate, collecting the assets (but not selling the house, which is a separate exercise) and distributing the assets are between £3,420 plus VAT and £4,560 plus VAT based on our expectation that this would take between 12 and 16 hours of our time, at £285 plus VAT per hour.

Assumptions and exclusions:

For the purposes of giving the above estimate of fees, we have considered an estate where;

  • there is a valid Will or, if there is no Will, the family tree is clear and certain;
  • the person who died owned one house, a car, no more than three bank or building society accounts, and no other significant assets;
  • the banks are notified promptly after the death, so there are no significant movements on those accounts after death, which would otherwise need to be dealt with and accounted for;
  • all the assets are in the UK;
  • the person who died held a credit card, but did not owe any other debts, apart from usual household outgoings;
  • the person who died had not made any substantial gifts (over about £3,000 per year) in the seven years before death;
  • the person who died was not entitled to benefit from a trust at the date of death, or within the seven years before that;
  • there is no need to prepare a final Income Tax return for the person who has died,
  • there are no more than four beneficiaries;
  • there are no disputes between beneficiaries about the division of the estate, and no claims against the estate; and
  • there is no Inheritance Tax to pay, and no need to file a full Inheritance Tax account.

If there is Inheritance Tax to pay, and we therefore have to prepare a full Inheritance Tax account for HM Revenue and Customs and make arrangements for payment of the tax, that will add some three to six hours to the time taken, so about £855 plus VAT to £1,710 plus VAT, to our charges.

Please note that if there is any dispute as to the terms or validity of a Will or a claim by someone who thinks that they ought to have benefited from the Will of the deceased, but did not (all of which are commonly known as “contested probate” work), then this fee information will not apply. In these circumstances, you should telephone us on 01628 631051 or email privateclient@colemans.co.uk to discuss the circumstances further and we will give you a tailored estimate of costs for dealing with this type of work, which will be separate to the general estate administration work envisaged by this information on fees.

Factors that will make the estate administration more complex (and therefore increase fees):

We do not offer fixed fees for probate or estate administration work because if you ask us to deal with the whole of the administration for you, the amount of our time that will take depends on a wide range of factors, including:

  • what you can tell us about the estate – if you can give us full, relevant and accurate information up front, we don’t have to spend time tracing details of, for instance, assets, beneficiaries or lifetime gifts;
  • the nature of the assets – for instance, it takes more time to identify, value, account for, and liquidate £1,000 in shares, than £1,000 in a bank account;
  • the number of the assets – for instance, dealing with ten £100 bank accounts is ten times the work of dealing with one £1,000 account;
  • the location of the assets – it takes a lot more time to deal with a holiday flat or a bank account in another country;
  • whether Inheritance Tax is to be paid, and which type of Inheritance Tax return we have to file. Some estates need a simple eight-page return, some need a detailed 16-page return with up to 23 schedules;
  • whether the estate includes any business property or agricultural property – that adds technical complexity and time to the administration;
  • whether a claim has to be made for Transferable Nil Rate Band, Residence Nil Rate Band or Transferable Residence Nil Rate Band – again, each of those adds technical complexity and time to the administration;
  • how many beneficiaries of the estate we have to deal with – the more people we are talking to or corresponding with, the more time that takes; and
  • whether there is any dispute over the terms of the Will, the division of the estate, or the way the estate is administered.

As stated above, we do not charge fees based on a percentage of the value of the estate. We do not think that pricing in that way is fair as you could end up paying a significant amount for a relatively small amount of technically difficult work just because, for example, the deceased owned a house with no mortgage that is worth £500,000. In Maidenhead and the surrounding areas this would not be uncommon and could result in payment of fees that far exceed the value of the work done. That is not how we work. We charge you for the time that we spend helping you and no more.

As you may imagine, all this makes it very difficult to give a hard-and-fast quote or even a close estimate at the outset for dealing with the whole of the administration process.

Come and see one of our specialists for the fixed-fee one-hour meeting, and then you can decide what you want to do, and what you want us to do, and we can give you a quote or an estimate for that work.

Call us on 01628 631051 or email privateclient@colemans.co.uk to arrange a meeting.

Disbursements:

In addition to what we charge for our work, you will have to pay fees to others. For example:

It may be sensible to search the National Will Register to make sure that there is no Will, or no later Will, which you didn’t know about.  If you decide to do that, the normal search fee is £114.

You will usually need a professional valuation of house contents and personal effects, and these specialist valuers typically charge about £150 plus VAT for valuing the contents of a three-bedroomed house.

To apply for a grant of probate or letters of administration, you will have to swear an oath, and the person administering the oath will charge a fee of £7 (where there is a Will, but no codicil) for each executor or administrator.

The Probate Registry charges a fee of £155 to process the application and issue the grant, plus 50p for each official copy you want of the grant.  (The government is currently proposing to introduce new probate fees in April 2019.  The proposals have not yet been debated, and may change significantly before they are put into effect.  If these proposals go through unchanged, the minimum fee for all but the very smallest estates will be £250, rising in bands to £6,000 for estates of over £2m.)

If you want to protect yourself against the risk of people coming out of the woodwork, perhaps long after the death, to claim that they were owed money by the person who died, you can put what is called a ‘statutory advertisement’ into the London Gazette and into a relevant local newspaper.  That sets a deadline, and any claim made after that deadline can safely be ignored.  The cost of these statutory advertisements varies, depending on what the local newspaper charges, but is generally £150 plus VAT to £300 plus VAT.

If the person who died owned shares, it will be necessary to deal with the people administering those shares, called company registrars.  If the person who died did not keep their papers in order, it may be necessary to ask the company registrars to provide missing information, or replacements for missing share certificates.  Company registrars charge for those services.  The fees vary from company to company, but are generally around £30 plus VAT per item.

Depending on the circumstances, you may have to pay other fees in the course of the administration, for instance to value private company shares, commercial property or agricultural property, to sort out the Income Tax of the person who has died, or to trace a missing beneficiary. Some of these fees will be subject to VAT. We will tell you if you need to incur any of these costs, and give you an estimate of those fees (plus any VAT payable on them) before you incur them.

If there is a house or other real estate to be sold, that will be dealt with separately by our residential property team, who will, on request, give you a quote for the cost of the sale. To find out more about selling residential property click here and to find out about our fees for selling residential property click here .

Finally, before you hand money or other assets to a beneficiary, you must check that the beneficiary is not bankrupt (in which case, their trustee in bankruptcy will have the first claim).  A bankruptcy search costs £2 per name.

How long will probate take?

On average, estates of this straightforward nature described above (with no Inheritance Tax to pay) are dealt with in 4 to 8 months, from start to finish.  Once we have the relevant estate papers, the process of gathering the valuations, filling in the relevant forms and getting the grant of probate, can take 2 or 3 months.

Collecting the assets then takes about 2 to 4 weeks.  Once this has been done, we can distribute the assets to the beneficiaries and collect their receipts, which can take a further 3 or 4 weeks.

If there is Inheritance Tax to pay on the estate, so we have to prepare a full Inheritance Tax account for H M Revenue and Customs, and arrange for payment of Inheritance Tax from bank or building society accounts held by the person who has died, that can add 4 to 6 weeks to the process, depending on the H M Revenue and Customs response time.

Who will I be working with?

All of our probate work is carried out by an experienced member of our private client team under the supervision of the firm’s Senior Partner, Michael Cutler. Michael is a solicitor with over 35 years’ experience specialising in Wills, Trusts and Probate matters and he is a long-standing member of the prestigious Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP).

At present, Michael is assisted by Patrina Spencer who is a private client locum. Patrina qualified as a barrister but has spent the last 18 years working in-house within solicitors’ firms specialising in private client work, with particular focus on Wills and estate administration. Patrina, therefore, has the benefit of vast experience dealing with exactly this type of work for clients.

We charge £285 (plus VAT) per hour for Patrina’s time.

 

To arrange a meeting with one of our specialists, call us on 01628 631051 or send us a message here.

For more information about our probate services visit our wills, probate and trusts page.

We’re here to help.

Michael Cutler

Senior Partner and Head of Private Client

01628 631051

© Colemans Solicitors LLP, 2018
Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority no. 459897. Legal Disclaimer

The information given on this website is not a comprehensive review of the law and practices in this area and does not constitute legal advice on a specific issue. Colemans Solicitors LLP does not therefore accept liability if you rely on or apply this information to your specific situation without taking bespoke advice. To seek detailed legal advice in relation to your specific circumstances or transaction please contact us.