probate costs

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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