Probate is a legal process where someone applies for the right to deal with the affairs of a person who has died.
‘Probate’ is used to describe both the Grant of Probate and the process involved in obtaining it.
Here is a short video explaining what probate is.
If the person who died had left a will the executor or administrator of the estate can apply for a Grant of Probate. This is a legal document that the they can use to confirm to banks and other organisations that they have the authority to manage the estate (property, money and belongings) of the person who has died.
If the person who died did not leave a will, a close relative of the deceased can apply to the probate registry for a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’ to manage the estate. This is also referred to as ‘probate’ because, for all practical purposes, the two types of grant are identical
A Grant of Probate is usually needed when the person who died leaves one or more of the following:
A Grant is not needed if the person who died held all their assets jointly with another person as everything would automatically pass down to the surviving joint owner. However, some financial organisations may require a grant before giving you access to even a small amount of money.
You apply for probate after the property, possessions, money, investments, and other assets have been identified and valued and any debts paid. The probate fee is due on application to the Probate Registry.
Probate fees are paid to the government in order to get approval for the distribution of a deceased person’s property, money and possessions.
The cost of administering an estate can vary widely depending on who does it. If the estate is small and uncomplicated you can keep the cost of probate low by applying for it yourself. Many people find it is easier than expected and can save themselves thousands of pounds.
However, settling an estate can be a long and complicated process which some may find stressful. Many people therefore hire a probate specialist to work on their behalf.
If you decide to use a probate service you will find that the fees vary. Banks tend to be more expensive than using probate solicitors or specialists. Generally banks charge a higher rate of around 4 % to 5% of an estates value.
Probate solicitors and specialists charge either an hourly rate or can charge a fee that is a percentage of the value of the estate. This fee is usually calculated as between 1% to 5% of the value of the estate, plus VAT. Some solicitors charge both an hourly rate and a percentage.
In some cases it will be difficult for you to manage the estate yourself and you may need to enlist the services of a probate specialist such as a probate solicitor. For example,
When deciding whether to use a probate solicitor or not, bear in mind that:
Here is a short video explaining more about inheritance tax.
Probate fees vary widely so it is difficult to say what average probate costs are.
It can be cheaper to use a probate solicitor. They can charge anything from £100 per hour to £300 per hour.
Solicitors probate fees are usually based on guidance from the Law Society which sets an initial fee of 0.75% of the value of the property, plus 1.5% of the value of other assets, and other charges on top of that. Bear in mind that more complex cases involving more hours of work or those with unexpected complications can make the probate fees much higher.
It is advisable to contact a few companies for quotes to get an idea of average probate costs. It is also important to find a solicitor who is approachable and sympathetic, and whose advice you understand.
Many firms will ask you to complete a detailed fact-finding questionnaire before they start the work so that they can give you an idea of the likely costs.
However, it is often not possible to know immediately what may be involved and how much advice and help is needed. It is possible to keep costs down by doing some of the work yourself. Also, ask to keep correspondence down to only that which is essential as the charges for sending letters quickly add up.
Keep in mind that the cost of probate is usually paid from the estate so you won’t have to worry about getting into financial difficulties.
There are some probate solicitors that charge a fixed fee for their services. It is advisable to get quotes from a few fixed fee probate solicitors so that you can compare their prices.
Here is an example of charges from a fixed fee probate solicitor:
|Grant of Probate/Grant of Letters of Administration only
|£849 + VAT|
|Dealing with the entire estate (obtaining Grant, collecting in assets and distributing to beneficiaries)|
|If the estate is under £325,000 and no Inheritance Tax is payable:|
||£1500 + VAT|
||£2100 + VAT|
||£300 + VAT|
If the estate is worth over £325,000 and Inheritance Tax is payable then the solicitor would ask for more information in order to determine the value and complexity of the estate. They would then quote a fixed fee based on the information given.
However, fixed fee quotes are always subject to change if information is given wrongly or new complexities arise
If you search in your local area you will see there are many probate solicitors offering their services. However, it is advisable to choose a solicitor who is a member of the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme.
By choosing a probate solicitor who is a member of this scheme you can be confident that they meet the high standards set by the Law Society.
You can find a probate solicitor at www.lawsociety.org.uk/findasolicitor. Search under ‘Wills and Probate’.
How long will the process take?
It can take up to a year or even longer if you are dealing with a complicated estate. There may be many different organisations who are involved in the process, such as banks, building societies, insurance companies and HM Revenue and Customs.
You have to wait until all claims have been received before you can start dealing with the estate. Anyone wishing to make a claim against the estate has 6 months from the date when probate was first granted. Arguments between family members, beneficiaries or personal representatives can also cause delays. Any disputes must be sorted out before the affairs of the person who died can be settled.
There are also other things that may affect the time taken, such as: