Probate Fees

Probate Fees

When someone dies there are quite a few things that have to be done very quickly including registering the death and planning the funeral. Once the immediate matters have been dealt with it is time to address the financial affairs of the deceased.

Probate is a legal term used to describe the legal process in dealing with the estate of someone who has died. When you die your executors, who you have appointed in your Will, have to carry out the instructions you gave them in your Will. If you die without a Will then your administrators will have to do the same thing.

Your executors (or administrators) are very likely to seek the assistance and guidance of a professional to guide them through what can be a very difficult task.

It is often much more straight forward and less stressful to get a lawyer to do this for you. There are long forms to complete and the process can easily take over 12 months. Sometimes an individual will appoint a professional to act alone or with a family member to administer their estate.

We, as solicitors, will be able to assist you in both circumstances and our costs will be calculated on the same basis whether we are acting for a professional or for an individual.

To put it very simply when someone dies their executors, appointed in their Will, or their administrators if they have no Will, will have to ‘prove’ that Will and that is done by obtaining a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration (if there is no Will). This will enable them to administer the estate. This means they will have to find out what assets the deceased owned, liquidate them and then distribute the estate to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the Will.

Our Fees

It is not easy to give a firm estimate for this type of work at the outset because every estate is different and it is not just the value of an estate that can make it more complicated. However, we can give you some idea of the costs involved. We will be able to update any estimate as we get a clearer idea of what is going to be involved.

We will also tell you who will work on the matter and what their charges would be.

We charge only on an hourly rate and not on a percentage value of the estate as some firms do.

At JG Poole & Co LLP the people who will work on your file will be:

Margaret Smith: Partner    – £265.00 per hour
Lucy Poole: Trainee    – £100.00 per hour

 

These rates are subject to VAT and are reviewed periodically and reflect the level of experience and seniority of the members of the team.

As a general rule, if the estate is “simple” our costs will be in the region of £3,000 – £8,000 plus VAT.

A “simple” estate means:

  1. There will be a valid Will;
  2. Only one property;
  3. No foreign assets;
  4. Up to five bank or building society accounts and some National Savings;
  5. No inheritance tax payable;
  6. Limited number of legacies and gifts;
  7. No more than three to five beneficiaries in total;
  8. No disputes between beneficiaries or beneficiaries and executors;
  9. No claims against the estate.

Many estates are this straight forward and in these cases often we are only instructed to obtain the Grant of Probate so that the beneficiaries can then administer the estate themselves. Our fees would reflect that fact.

Any estimate of fees does not include the sale of the property or dealing with any pre-death tax matters unless these matters have been discussed and are covered in our Letter of Engagement.

A “complex” estate or a “very complex” estate would be one that would have business or agricultural assets, diverse investments, foreign assets and numerous beneficiaries or where there would be inheritance tax payable. However, the payment of inheritance tax does not necessarily make it a complex estate. It would also be a complex estate where there are disputes between the beneficiaries. These issues could all lead to the matter taking much longer to deal with which generally will increase the charges.

Wills and intestacies can often be varied and this too would make a relatively simple estate more complex.

With more complex estates once the issues become clearer we are able to give a better estimate of the time it will take to deal with and the costs involved.

Expenses

As well as the costs for administering an estate there are expenses which are called “disbursements”. These are set fees payable to third parties and include:

Probate swear fee – £7.00 per executor
Probate application fee – £155.00
Additional copies of the Grant    – £10.50 (one needed for each asset)
Bankruptcy Search – £2.00 for each beneficiary searched against
Trustee Act Notices – £200.00 plus VAT
Land Registry Searches – £3.00 plus VAT

 

What work is involved in the Administration of an Estate?

  1. Usually we will meet with the executors and before the pandemic this would often be in person but more likely now it will be by some form of video link. At this meeting we will discuss the Will and what the deceased owned and what the next steps will be.
  2. Once we have established what the deceased owned we will obtain valuations for all the deceased’s assets and closing statements.
  3. We will write to all the beneficiaries once we have the executors’ instructions to do so.
  4. When we have all the information we need about what is in the estate we can prepare the “probate papers” which are an HMRC Return of Estate Information Form and the probate application. These will be sent for approval in draft form to the executors/ administrators.
  5. We will then arrange for the probate papers to be sworn and signed and for the formal copies to be submitted to HMRC (if appropriate) and the Probate Registry.
  6. On receipt of a Grant of Probate we will begin to liquidate all the deceased’s assets such as closing bank accounts, selling or transferring shares and so on.
  7. When funds are available we will settle all the deceased’s liabilities including inheritance tax, if relevant.
  8. We will pay all legacies set out in the Will and if there are sufficient funds we will consider making interim distributions to the residuary beneficiaries.
  9. We will prepare Estate Accounts to account to the beneficiaries under the Will or those inheriting on intestacy for all the estate assets, debts and expenses and calculate their entitlements.

In more complex estates there will be other matters to deal with such as valuing farmland or businesses, dealing with foreign lawyers, corresponding with HMRC and dealing with stockbrokers and accountants.

How much is involved will obviously affect how long the administration will take.

A simple estate will take between 6 to 12 months and usually a Grant of Probate will be available in 6 months. However, a complex estate could take several years. If there is Agricultural Property Relief and Business Property Relief involved then HMRC can take many months to deliberate and will raise very detailed questions which have to be dealt with.

Billing

Generally we would raise an invoice based on our estimate, set out in a Letter of Engagement which we will have agreed with the executors at the outset of the instructions, once we have a Grant of Probate and we can access the deceased’s assets. After that we will bill regularly and when appropriate.