Getting Probate and administering an estate can involve a wide range of legal and administrative work. The amount and type of work depends upon multiple factors and these matters determine the likely legal fees:
- What are the circumstances of the person who has died?
- Is there a Will?
- Is it valid?
- What does the Will say?
- Who is the estate left to?
- How many beneficiaries are there?
- What are their circumstances?
- What are the assets and liabilities?
- Where are they located?
- Was the person who died the beneficiary of a trust?
- Does their Will create a trust?
- Is inheritance tax payable?
- Is money available to pay the inheritance tax?
This list of questions could go on.
It is usually best if we talk to you and understand the circumstances, and then provide you with an accurate fee estimate. You can arrange an initial consultation (emails, telephone calls, or an online or face-to-face meeting, together of up to 1 hour) with us at no charge to discuss the circumstances and we will then confirm our fees.
Although it would be simple to publish a list of charges based on a percentage of whatever the value of the estate is, the value of the estate alone is not a fair way to measure the work involved. Some high value estates are very straightforward to administer, and some low value estates are very complex. An expert advisor understands this so individual pricing is fairer. Sometimes we charge a fixed fee, sometimes we charge based on our time, and sometimes we charge based on a combination of our time and the value of the estate. It depends on the circumstances. We hope the information provided here will help you understand your options.
When you instruct us to help you, we set out important matters clearly at the outset in our Client Agreement: The background to your matter, the status and qualification of your legal adviser, our fees, third party expenses, the timescale and the other important contractual and regulatory matters. Everything is very clear.
Our team has considerable expertise and experience and the highest level of professional accreditations. Approximately half the firm’s work relates to probate and trusts. Our work covers a broad range from straightforward probate applications, through to very complex estate administrations involving multiple trusts. Most of the estates we administer involve inheritance tax or are above the IHT threshold and benefit from special exemptions and reliefs.
We provide a range of services that will help you with probate depending on how much or little support you need. Your options include fixed fee services.
OUR FIXED FEE SERVICES (excluding VAT)
ML PROBATE CHECK – £575
Where no inheritance tax is payable, we can review your completed probate application with you to make sure everything is correct, if you are happy to gather all the required information and make a personal application for probate. This service is similar in approach to the Post Office Passport Application Check, but obviously more complex. You will meet with an experienced lawyer who can answer any questions you may have about the Will or the procedure of administering an estate. If you feel able to get probate without using a Solicitor, this option is a cost effective way to have matters reviewed for peace of mind. The fee allows for a 45 minute meeting at our offices. This service is not available if you are dealing with an estate that involves the payment of inheritance tax.
ML GRANT OF PROBATE APPLICATION – FROM £1,275
Where no inheritance tax is payable you can ask us just to get the grant of probate if you don’t want to deal with the formalities of making a personal application, but you are happy to gather all the required information.
We provide legal and practical guidance to support you. This option includes two 45 minute meetings or telephone consultations. We explain what information you need to gather so that we can prepare your probate application. We can advise you about the terms of the Will and your options in relation to administering the estate.
We prepare the probate application and go through it with you. We then submit the application on your behalf and give you the grant of probate when it is issued. You can then administer the estate.
The starting fixed fee above applies if a long IHT form is not required and therefore no inheritance tax is payable either.
If you are dealing with an estate where inheritance tax is payable, our fixed fees start from £2,450 to allow for the additional work involved. Our fees will be confirmed when you make your enquiry or when we understand what is involved. The complexity of the gifts left in the Will, the number of beneficiaries and the type and extent of the assets to be distributed can affect the fees.
If you are dealing with an estate that involves a trust and many Wills do create trusts, then you should always take expert legal advice.
ML INTESTACY APPLICATION (GRANT OF LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION) – FROM £1,995
If you are dealing with the estate of someone who has died without a Will the procedure is similar to a grant of probate application but includes additional steps to verify the legal position. Included in our fee is a Certainty Search to check (as far as we can) that no Will is overlooked.
We can help if the estate will incur inheritance tax or if any of the beneficiaries, or assets or liabilities are unknown. Additional fees are charged to cover the extra work and are explained and agreed with you at the outset.
ML FULL ESTATE ADMINISTRATION – FROM £3,795
When you are bereaved it can be both daunting and overwhelming to deal with Probate. The fact that all necessary information may appear to be online, doesn’t necessarily make it easy to deal with, or get it right. Information is not the same as knowledge. As an executor you may not have the necessary time to deal with all the formalities, or you may be concerned about the responsibilities and potential liability of dealing with probate and dealing with the beneficiaries who can sometimes cause difficulties. You can come and talk to us, and we will help you.
We will ask you questions and then give you advice so that we support you through the whole process. We take responsibility for getting everything right, we gather all the necessary information, and we complete all necessary forms (including for HMRC). As Solicitors we are highly regulated and fully insured.
Typically a full administration service will include some or all of the following: –
- Guidance as to the terms of the Will, how to deal with the estate when someone has died without leaving a Will and advice on the procedure and requirements involved
- Valuation of assets for probate purposes and maximising tax relief
- Preparing and submitting Inheritance Tax accounts
- Applying for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration
- Corresponding with HM Revenue & Customs to deal with all tax matters
- Preparing estate accounts, collecting and distributing estate money
- Selling or transferring assets (including property)
- Setting up trusts created by the Will or intestacy
- Advice on Deeds of Variation
As every case is different, we confirm our fees when we have all the relevant information.
ML EXECUTOR SUPPORT SERVICE- FROM £575
You can ask us for help or support at any stage with some, any, or all of the process of dealing with an estate when someone dies. You may only want legal advice about a specific aspect of a Will or a Trust.
Our Executor Support Service provides you with a one hour consultation with brief written summary follow up on any estate topic for £575.
Afterwards you may require ad-hoc advice or some specific legal documentation (for example to implement a Will Trust). Generally if you need help with a specific and defined issue we can agree a fixed fee for our work. In certain circumstances after the initial consultation we work at an hourly rate with agreed time estimates. Hourly rates are from £195 to £285 (excluding VAT) depending on the level of expertise required, or the adviser you choose to deal with.
Please contact us to discuss which fee option is appropriate for you and to confirm our fee based upon your specific circumstances.
Any additional third party fees and payments separate to our legal fees, for example, the Probate Registry fee, are confirmed at the outset.
We know that often in straightforward cases many people feel happy to deal with Probate without a Solicitor. Our Probate Check Service will give you basic legal advice, additional peace of mind and take care of the Probate Registry formalities and requirements. If on the other hand you need to deal with a large or complicated estate, legal help can be very important and is sometimes invaluable. Our distinct services and fee options support you in a range of circumstances and we look forward to helping you.
We hope that information about the process and our fixed fees is helpful. If you are comparing services between different providers, it’s important to remember that Solicitors are fully insured and regulated. Not all providers of legal services are. The service available from different firms of Solicitors can also vary depending on specialisms, expertise, and individual advisers. Look out for relevant professional accreditations. It is not advisable to choose your legal adviser because of fees alone. Some other non-solicitor, professional services firm advertise doing Probate and Trusts work, and about this we say: ‘ we wouldn’t go to a mechanic to get our hair cut’.
Although we offer the fixed fee options described above sometimes, they are not suitable for the circumstances. In these cases we estimate our fees on the basis of our likely time charges and sometimes in more complex cases we also charge a value element. Because every case is different it is important to explain your circumstances and then we can consider what service is most suitable for you and agree our fees with you.
When we estimate our charges in relation to administering a more complex estate we broadly follow the former Law Society guidelines, and they set out three stages:
- 1. The value of the time involved, which is charged at pre-agreed hourly rates
- 2. An element based upon the value of the estate. This is because the value is a reflection of the responsibility, obligation and potential liability which falls upon the firm in administering the estate (please see below about when and why we charge a value element).
- In cases where the solicitor is not named as an executor by the Will, the value of an interest in property may be charged at up to a maximum of 0.5%, and the value of the remaining estate may be charged at up to a maximum of 1%. We do not usually charge these maximum amounts (see below)
- 3. When taking into account the amount of time that has been spent dealing with the matter, and the value, we are legally required to consider what is fair and reasonable to you as a client and us as a firm. This is an important stage and it is our usual practice to discount any value element in all but the most complex of cases.
When and why we may Charge a Discretionary Value Element
Value charges do not apply where you only ask us to obtain a Grant of Probate or Administration or where we are only providing a more limited advisory service or where a fixed fee has been agreed. They are factored into our fee estimate when we are dealing with or advising in relation to the administration as a whole, and we are receiving the value of various assets and investments into our Clients bank account. The receipt and handling of client funds involves a significant amount of additional (but unseen) administration, potential liability and therefore cost to our firm. Some proportionate amount of value charge fairly offsets these costs, risks and responsibilities where they are not accurately reflected by the recorded time charges.
What is the Timescale for dealing with Probate?
When we understand what your matter involves, we will try and give you an accurate timescale for your work. Matters can be dealt with fairly quickly if an estate is straightforward. If the estate involves inheritance tax or is more complex the following explanation should help you understand the likely timescales.
Probate can be broken down into two main stages. Stage 1 involves the preliminary work up to and including issue of the grant of probate and stage 2 afterwards involves dealing with the assets and liabilities and distributing the estate in order to complete the administration.
To help you understand the process and timescale these are the four main ‘Stage 1’ steps when an estate involves the payment of inheritance tax:
- Step 1: It may take 6-8 weeks to clarify relevant figures, i.e. accurate values of assets and liabilities. Complex or unusual assets may take longer to value.
- Step 2: Once Step 1 is completed we then require 2 – 3 weeks to prepare the Probate application and any inheritance tax (IHT) forms.
- Step 3: When you have signed the IHT forms and approved your statement of truth we will apply for funds to pay the IHT and obtain the necessary receipt from HMRC. The timescale for this stage is variable and dependent upon the third parties involved.
- Step 4: When HMRC issue a receipt for the IHT paid we then submit the Probate Application to the Probate Registry and we wait for them to issue the Grant of Probate. HMRC generally now send the receipt (including where no IHT is payable) direct to the Probate Registry and we are required to wait 20 working days after submission of the IHT forms before submitting the probate application and then we wait for them to issue the Grant of Probate. Currently there are delays with the Courts and Tribunal Service and so this stage may take between 8 and 16 weeks. In some cases it may take even longer.
- Stage One usually takes between 3 and 7 months (very approximately) to conclude.
- These timescales are indicative only. The timescale depends upon all of the circumstances and sometimes circumstances can change from those envisaged at the outset.
Stage 2 involves liquidating or transferring the assets as is necessary, settling the liabilities which may include the balance of IHT if any, and finalising tax matters, paying the legacies and then either distributing the estate to beneficiaries or transferring the estate to trustees to constitute any ongoing trust.
Generally the active administration of an estate will usually be completed within a year of someone’s death. In more complex estates the timescale may however be longer and this would be discussed with you as soon as the position becomes apparent. A delay with a property being sold for example will usually delay finalisation of the estate administration.
There are statutory time periods during which a claim may be brought against an estate after a person dies. A claim may be brought against an estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 within 6 months of the date of issue of a Grant of Probate or Representation, without the leave of the Court. Distributing an estate within this period can therefore present risks for an Executor, particularly if they are not the sole residuary beneficiary.
I am an Executor, what do I have to do?
• Ensure that funeral arrangements are properly carried out
• Calculate the value of the estate and to complete the account detailing the assets and liabilities that must be submitted to HMRC. This can sometimes be needed even if no grant is required to deal with the estate.
• Obtain the appropriate Grant (Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration)
• Ensure that all of the deceased person’s assets are bought under the executor’s control and where necessary converted to cash.
• Ensure that the deceased person’s liabilities are settled in full (including the funeral account and any IHT)
• Finalise the deceased person’s income tax affairs to the date of death with HMRC and to pay any outstanding tax or alternatively to obtain any refund that may be due to the estate. This may be necessary even if a Grant is not required to deal with the estate
• Submit details of any income received after the date of death to HMRC, to notify HMRC of the sale of assets such as properties, stocks and shares and to pay any income tax and capital gains tax that may be due
• Ensure that any legacies contained or referred to in the Will are either paid or distributed
• Prepare Estate Accounts showing how the amount due to the beneficiaries entitled to the remainder of the estate (known as the residuary of beneficiaries) has been calculated
• Ensure that the remainder of the estate is paid to the appropriate beneficiaries
We can provide as much or as little help as you need.
The Probate work we deal with is called ‘non-contentious’ or ‘uncontested’. If an estate administration involves a dispute it has become ‘contentious’. Sometimes we can help to prevent an estate from becoming contentious. If the estate is contentious we either refer you to, or work with a specialist contentious lawyer.