Making a will

Read the latest articles on Family Law from our expert Family Law solicitors here at Evolve Family Law in Manchester & Cheshire.

We put a lot of family law legal information on our website and if you have a single question about your situation, you should find an answer in this blog.

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How Much Does Getting Probate Cost?

How Much Does Getting Probate Cost?

At Evolve Family Law our private client solicitors, Chris Strogen and Judith Chesters, are getting inquiries about the cost of instructing a solicitor to obtain probate and to administer and distribute the estate of a loved one. Some of the inquiries we receive are from executors who have instructed other law firms to obtain probate for a fixed fee and who are disappointed to discover that the fixed fee does not cover all the work required. In this article, our probate solicitors have put together some information on probate and how solicitors charge for probate services to help executors make an informed choice about whether they need a probate solicitor, and if so, the service they require. For expert probate advice call us or complete our online form. Is probate necessary? Before we look at how much probate costs we should first ask if probate is necessary.  Not all estates require a grant of probate. Smaller estates where the deceased did not own a house and did not have a lot of savings may be able to be sorted out informally using the bank or building society’s bereavement service to close the account and transfer the funds to the beneficiary. If the only asset owned by the deceased was a house jointly owned with their spouse as joint tenants, then probate may not be necessary as the property paperwork can be sorted out with the land registry. In most cases, probate is necessary. The executors then need to decide: Do you want to use a probate solicitor? If you asking the probate solicitor to obtain the grant of probate or if you are asking them to get the grant and then distribute the estate under the terms of the Will or following intestacy rules (where there is no Will) The type of probate service fee structure you want to agree to The costs of probate and the solicitor's fees will be taken out of the estate before the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries. In some, but not all cases, the executors and the beneficiaries are the same people. Why use a probate solicitor? You do not have to use a probate solicitor but many executors prefer to do so simply because they do not have the time to sort out and deal with the paperwork involved in getting probate and distributing the estate. Many executors underestimate what is involved and how time-consuming it can be if they have not previously had to deal with the probate service or with HMRC. Other than the time factor, there are advantages of using a specialist regulated probate solicitor: The solicitor reduces the stress of sorting out the estate. This can be helpful when an executor is grieving the loss of the deceased or if there are difficult family dynamics between the executors or between the executors and the beneficiaries. A probate solicitor can give the executor and beneficiaries a realistic time estimate for obtaining the grant and distributing the estate An executor is personally liable for some things. For example, if they forget to pay a debt from the estate, do not pay the right amount of inheritance tax, or do not distribute the estate in the precise terms of the Will or under the intestacy rules. A probate solicitor has a professional insurance policy and the executor can refer any issue that crops up with the estate administration to the probate solicitor provided that the solicitor's retainer covers the issue. For example, a solicitor asked to obtain the grant of probate is not responsible for any problems in paying debts or distributing the estate if the solicitor was not asked to handle that aspect of the estate administration [related_posts] What type of probate service does an executor require? If executors decide to use a probate solicitor the next decision is to decide what the solicitor should do. This is called the scope of their instructions or retainer. Where a grant of probate is required, an executor can ask the probate solicitor to: Sort out the grant of probate alone including completing the appropriate tax form or Handle the grant of probate and some bits of the estate administration or Obtain the grant of probate and deal with all the estate administration from start to finish Option 3 is the least stressful option for the executors and may result in the beneficiaries receiving their share of the estate more quickly than if the executors dealt with all or part of the estate administration.  Option 2 works if the executors and probate solicitors know who is dealing with each aspect so there is no confusion or delay. The executors' decision will probably depend on their willingness and availability to do some of the work and to take responsibility for it. Another factor may be the cost, particularly where the executors are also the beneficiaries of the estate. Solicitor charges for probate services If the executors decide to instruct a probate solicitor the next question is whether to choose one that offers a fixed fee service or charges for their time spent in sorting out the grant of probate and/or distribution of the estate. At Evolve Family Law our probate solicitors charge on a time-spent basis rather than providing a fixed fee. That way there is no confusion over what  ‘’fixed fee’’ covers or upset that executors are paying a large fixed fee based on the value of the estate when, if the assets are relatively straightforward, the large fixed fee may not be justified and cannot be renegotiated. Our approach at Evolve Family Law avoids the issues that many executors have with ‘’complete’’ or fixed-fee services.   The executors may think that the service covers all the assets but the lawyer may say that the ‘’complete service’’ only covers the assets that pass under the Will. This may not include all the deceased’s insurance policies or pensions, leaving some of the most complex assets to be sorted out by the executors and not covered by the fixed fee. The majority of the probate work we do is carried out by solicitors Judith Chesters or Chris Strogen. They have both been qualified as solicitors for over 30 years. To make our probate service as efficient and as cost-effective as possible they are supported by legal assistants Katie Leake and Tracey Carney. We can give an estimate of the likely charges once we know a bit about the estate and what will be involved.  There is no obligation to go ahead. When our probate solicitors give a quote, we explain our likely legal fees plus VAT and the expenses the estate will need to pay. Typical expenses include: Expense Cost Probate Fees paid to the Court £300 Copies of the grant of probate £1.50 per copy Copies of the death certificate £10 per copy Property land registry information £6 Statutory advertisements for debtors under the Trustee Act Normally around £300 inclusive of VAT but the precise figure depends on the estate   Other expenses may sometimes be necessary, such as tracing fees to find a beneficiary or fees to replace a lost share certificate or to value an asset for probate. In addition to these expenses, the estate will also pay for the probate service provided by our probate solicitors on a time basis. Our time is charged by: Using the exact amount of time taken. Unlike some other law firms, we do not round the time taken up to 6 or 10-minute units of time Using the best person for the job. The executors get a named probate solicitor with over 30 years of experience but appropriate work is tasked to our legal assistants. That combination means the work is undertaken efficiently We have to add VAT to our solicitor charges. Evolve Family Law probate services Most executors want to know how much an average probate costs on a time basis.  We set out and update this information on our website cost page so executors have a rough idea of the cost before calling us. It is always worth a call to discuss potential costs as the estate may be more straightforward than a typical case. Time to get probate Solicitors can get bad press about the time taken to get probate. Admittedly some solicitors are slow (not us) but a lot of complaints about probate solicitors and estate administration stem from misunderstandings about the reasons for the delay. However efficient we are in sorting out the grant application and the paperwork, a tax return may need to be processed by HMRC and the application for probate must be processed by the probate registry. We can give you an indication of timescales. After the grant of probate is obtained it is then a question of our liaising with banks, investment funds, HMRC and others to gather in all the assets so we can do our job of finalising the estate, completing any final tax return and distributing bequests. We appreciate that delays can be frustrating but we give realistic time estimates and make sure that beneficiaries understand that any delays are not down to executor delay. Next steps  If you are an executor and need help with getting probate or estate administration our experts can help. We find that our probate fees are often more competitive than those offering a fixed-fee probate service. With us, there are no surprises with executors being told that the complete fixed fee service does not cover the work the executors envisaged it would. For expert probate advice call us or complete our online form.
Chris Strogen
Jun 12, 2024   ·   8 minute read
Wills for Unmarried Partners

Wills for Unmarried Partners

If you are in an unmarried relationship or cohabiting with a partner you do need to sort some paperwork out. Whilst you and your partner may both be content to not have a marriage certificate or civil partnership certificate there are some practical things that you should do to protect your partner and family. In this article, our Will solicitors look at why it is vital to get a Will sorted out for yourself if you are entering a new cohabiting relationship or if you and your unmarried partner have settled down together without the convention of marriage or civil partnership. For expert Will advice call us or complete our online form. Why you need a Will if you are in an unmarried relationship If you are young and unmarried, why do you need a Will? If you are middle-aged, in good health, and buoyed up by your new relationship, why do you need a Will? The answer - if you are living with a partner or are in a personal relationship then your loved one has no inheritance rights or voice if you pass away. The position is different if they were your wife, husband or civil partner. Whilst a spouse or civil partner is legally your next of kin, an unmarried partner has no legal standing if you do not make a Will. That is the case if you have been living together with your partner for 3 months or 30 years. If you are unmarried and you do not have a Will, your next of kin may be your children, parents, or a sibling. Your relatives may not get on with your partner. The difficult relationship dynamics and money issues could result in your partner and your family arguing in court about who should inherit your property and assets. Unless your family who will inherit your estate under intestacy rules can reach an agreement with your cohabiting partner, a judge may have to decide if the intestacy rules (that give nothing to your unmarried partner) should be changed to leave them with reasonable financial provision in light of their circumstances. [related_posts] Why you need your partner to make a Will Looking at the situation from the other angle, it is just as important that your partner makes a Will to protect you. For example, if you have been living with them for ten years in their home. If they pass away before you and they have not made a Will then you will not be entitled to stay in the house. You also will not be entitled to a share in the equity in the property if it is sold unless you can either: Prove that you have a beneficial interest in the property because you invested money in it and are entitled to an equitable interest under property or trust law or Claim a share of the estate of your partner by challenging the estate distribution under the intestacy rules Either option involves the potential for family disputes and court proceedings. Sometimes unmarried partners do not want to leave their house or estate to their partner. That may be understandable if they have children from a previous relationship, if you and they have not been together long or if you are comfortably off and do not need a share of their estate. However, a Will could give you a right to live in the property for life if your partner has children or the Will could give you the right to stay at the property for at least 12 months after your partner’s death so you have a bit of space and time to grieve. What should go in your Will and in the Will of your unmarried partner depends on a whole range of issues, including the size of the two estates and your financial positions as well as your respective personal preferences. Alternatively, you or your partner may want to make financial provision for one another by taking out life insurance but you will then need to consider if the life insurance will pass under your Will or a nomination form. Many couples can feel overwhelmed by Will choices but that is no reason not to make a Will. Our Will solicitors can help you wade through the choices and the decisions you need to make when writing a Will to ensure that you are left with a Will that reflects your wishes and family circumstances. For expert Will and private client advice call us or complete our online form.
Chris Strogen
May 21, 2024   ·   4 minute read
Do You Need a Will if You Are Married?

Do You Need a Will if You Are Married?

Will solicitor, Chris Strogen, is emphatic that you do need a Will if you are married.  In this blog, we explain why you need a Will if you are married and how our Will solicitors at Evolve Family Law can write your Will or advice on whether an existing Will needs changing.  For expert Will and estate planning advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form.   Why do you need a Will if you are married?  Whether you are married or not, if you die without a Will then your assets (called your estate) pass under statutory intestacy rules. Who gets your money and estate depends on whether you are married or in a civil partnership and whether you have children or other extended family.  The intestacy rules are inflexible and they may not reflect your wishes or be tax-efficient. Without a Will, it can be more difficult to administer your estate, especially if you own complicated assets. For example, you are a shareholder in a family business or you are self-employed as a sole trader or own a buy to let property portfolio.  In addition, if the intestacy rules do not meet your family circumstances a qualifying relative may want to challenge the estate distribution and make a claim against the estate. They can do this by alleging that the intestacy rules do not make reasonable financial provision for them.  The intestacy rules if you die without a Will and you are married  The intestacy rules if you die without a Will and you are married depend on whether you have children.   Step-children do not count as your children for this purpose as they are not biologically related to you. That’s the case even if you have always been very close to your step children. Your children from any previous relationships do count even if they are estranged from you or if at the date you pass away, they are financially independent with their own homes and families. Children includes adopted children and the descendants of your biological or adopted children.  If you do not have children your husband, wife or civil partner will inherit your entire estate.   If you do have children your husband, wife or civil partner will inherit:  The first £322,000 of your estate  All your personal possessions  Half the rest of the estate. The remaining half is divided equally between your children   The intestacy rules say that if a child has died before their parent, then the grandchild or the great grandchild of the deceased inherits in their parent’s place.  As the intestacy rules are inflexible an estate claim could be brought. For example, your husband or wife may say that they need more than £322,000 and half the rest of the estate to meet their needs. Alternatively, if you jointly own a family home with your spouse as joint tenants, your surviving husband or wife will end up owning the family home as well as getting the first £322,000 of your estate and half the remainder of the estate. Depending on the size of your estate, that may not leave much for your children to inherit.  [related_posts] Why writing a Will is a good idea whether you are married or not  Having a Will in place is always a good idea, whatever your personal circumstances.  With a Will you can:  Decide who should administer your estate and distribute the monies. The named people are called your executors. They can be family members, friends, a Will solicitor or a combination. You need at least 2 people to act as your executors  Appoint a testamentary guardian for your children. This is important if you have children under the age of 18  Make gifts of specific assets to people, such as items of jewellery or sentimental family heirlooms  Ensure that your estate is distributed tax efficiently so the estate pays less in inheritance tax. This should mean there is more money left for your beneficiaries  Leave money to a charity of your choice  Say what your preferences are about funeral arrangements  Place money in a trust. This can be helpful where, for example, you have been married previously and have children from different relationships. You may want your current spouse to be able to stay at the family home and have enough to live very comfortably but you may want your estate left in trust so that on your spouse’s death your remaining estate passes to your other trust beneficiaries, such as your children. If money is left outright to your spouse in your Will or under intestacy rules, then on the death of your spouse your monies will form part of their estate and be distributed in accordance with their Will or under intestacy rules. If your spouse remarries then the monies inherited from you may pass to their new husband or wife rather than to your children or grandchildren or to your preferred charity  There are many other reasons why talking to a Will solicitor is a good idea. For example:  To understand what assets form part of your estate. If the family home is owned as joint tenants, it passes straight to the surviving owner and not by your Will. If the house is owned as tenants in common your share of the property passes by your Will or under the intestacy rules. Other assets, such as a pension or life insurance, may not pass by your Will but by nominations. It all depends on how the policy is written  It may be tax efficient to make lifetime gifts as part of your estate planning and IHT strategy  You may want to put in place a Lasting Power of Attorney for yourself and your spouse  You may want to check if your former spouse has a potential claim against your estate and discuss what you can do to protect your current husband or wife or your children from such an estate claim   For expert Will and estate planning advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form.
Chris Strogen
Jan 10, 2024   ·   6 minute read