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probate fees

What are the cost of probate fees in 2018 and where can I find a solicitor?

In this article we will explain:what is the cost of probate

  • what probate is
  • who it applies to
  • probate fees that apply
  • the average cost of probate
  • the pitfalls of doing it yourself
  • where you can find a probate solicitor

60 second overview of this article

What is probate in 2018

  • Probate is the legal process involved in dealing with the property, money and possessions of a person who has died
  • ‘Probate’ is used to describe both the Grant of Probate and the process involved in obtaining it

Grant of probate

  • If the person left a will the executor of the estate can apply for a ‘Grant of Probate’ – a legal document which proves they have the authority to manage the estate
  • If the person didn’t leave a will a close relative of the deceased can apply for a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’ – this is also referred to as ‘probate’
  • A Grant is usually needed if  the deceased’s estate: is worth over £5000 (once debts and the funeral costs have been paid); owned stocks or shares; had property or land in their own name
  • 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
  • Probate fees are paid to the government in order to get approval for the distribution of a deceased person’s property, money and possessions;

What are the current probate fees

  • There is a flat rate fee of £215 for applications made by an individual or £155 for applications made by a probate solicitor or specialist
  • The cost of probate is usually paid from the estate
  • 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
  • In some cases it will be difficult for you to manage the estate yourself and you may need  the services of a probate specialist such as a probate solicitor
  • Banks tend to be more expensive than using probate solicitors or specialists.  Banks typically charge a higher rate of around 4 % to 5% of an estates value, whilst solicitor fees can be a little lower
  • 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

Probate solicitors

  • There are some probate solicitors that charge a fixed fee for their services
  • 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 cost
  • It is advisable to choose a solicitor who is a member of the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme.
  • You can leave your details on this page and we will find a probate solicitor to help you

The probate process

  • The probate process can take up to a year or even longer if you are dealing with a complicated estate
  • 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
  • Any disputes must be sorted out before the affairs of the person who died can be settled.
  • Inheritance Tax needs to be paid to HMRC once the estate has been settled if it is worth over £325,000. You can read here about how to avoid paying inheritance tax.

A more detailed explanation of the above information now follows.

What is Probate?

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.

Grant of Probate

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.

Grant of Letters of Administration

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

When do you need a Grant?

A Grant of Probate is usually needed when the person who died leaves one or more of the following:

  • £5,000 or more
  • stocks or shares
  • property or land held in their own name or if the spouses each own a separate share of the property – called ‘tenants in common

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.

If you are looking at what to do with probate following the death of a loved one, we’s recommend that you read our ‘Dealing with Bereavement’ guide, which sets out the 10 steps you should take.

probate-fees

What are probate fees?

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.

  • If the deceased person’s estate is worth over £5000 (once the funeral costs and debts have been paid), there is a flat rate fee of £215 for applications made by an individual
  • or £155 for applications made by a probate solicitor or specialist.

What is the cost of probate in the UK?

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. The average solicitors fees and costs for probate tend to be lower then this. 

Probate solicitors and specialists charge either an hourly rate or can charge a fee that is a percentage of the value of the estate.

The average probate cost 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.

What are the average probate costs?

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.

The pitfalls of DIY probate and why you should use a professional

With the huge increase in internet use and the wealth of information that can be found on it, more and more people are being tempted to deal with the administration of an estate themselves. This blog sets the factors you should consider.

Probate, the process of dealing with someone’s estate (property, possessions, cash, savings) when they pass away, can be applied for without seeing a lawyer, but it’s not without risks. Official statistics indicate that the number of claims against executors for breach of fiduciary duty (in other words “getting it wrong”) has more than tripled in recent years. There is speculation that this increase is linked to the rise in DIY probate.

There are various factors to consider before deciding whether or not to handle the process yourself. These factors can include:

1 – Understand your responsibilities

Acting as an executor does not come without responsibilities. An executor is responsible for dealing with large sums of money, discharging debts and liabilities, some of which you might not know about and preserving the estate for the beneficiaries.

2 – The Will itself can be complicated

If it has been prepared by a lawyer then it may include legal language which is based on law developed other hundreds of years. What you think the Will says may be different to what it actually says. Many professionally drafted Wills contain trusts; to save inheritance tax, to avoid those who inherit paying care fees and to reduce the likelihood of potential disputes. These types of trust can be complicated to administer and to understand all of the tax implications when deciding how to deal with them.

3 – Understand your personal liability

An executor is often personally liable for compensating a beneficiary who has suffered a loss.       This may be due to the Will being misunderstood, a decision that has been made having a negative tax impact or assets in the estate losing value due to delay. These are a few of the many things that can go wrong when dealing with an estate.

4 – Amending entitlements

Beneficiaries can look to amend their entitlement under a deceased’s Will after the death, under the current inheritance tax rules. This might not always be known or obvious to the lay executor or beneficiaries. There can potentially be negative inheritance tax consequences which can be addressed by such a variation and spotting this in time is crucial.

5 – Completing an Inheritance Tax return

In many cases an inheritance tax return will be required and the executors will need to account to HM Revenue & Customs for this. These accounts can be complicated even in what might appear to be the simplest estates. The penalties for an incorrect return can also be severe. When was the last time you volunteered to complete a tax return?

6 – It can be time consuming

Dealing with a person’s estate can be a time consuming business. An experienced lawyer will know the process well and can get on with the administration of an estate efficiently.

7 – Value independence

A lawyer is also independent and allows an executor to keep beneficiaries at ‘arms length’ and can assist an executor in managing beneficiaries’ demands and any conflicts that may arise.

8 – Understand all the tax implications

Inheritance tax should not be the only tax you consider when administering a person’s estate.       At various stages of the administration there may also be capital gains tax and income tax matters to take into account. In particular there are often significant Capital Gains Tax savings to be made before selling a person’s home. An experienced lawyer should identify these and help the executor and beneficiaries take advantage of these tax planning opportunities.

9 – Use a reputable lawyer

Finally, by using a reputable lawyer, an executor and the beneficiaries are afforded additional protection. A lawyer should retain any monies on behalf of the estate in a client account.    Solicitors are required to hold professional indemnity insurance are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

As elderly client specialists, we are also able to add value for example by identifying cases where money is owed to the estate for care funding which should have been met by the NHS and we can assist in making a claim on behalf of the family.

In all but the most straightforward cases, it is important to seek timely specialist advice to save money and worry. Executors carry a certain amount of personal liability in their role and they can open themselves up to substantial legal claims if they are unaware of the law and their obligations.

For more advice or information please contact:

When deciding whether to use a probate solicitor or not, bear in mind that:

  • you can be held legally responsible for any mistakes in administering the estate.  You need to ensure that all money owed to the Estate is paid and any debts owed by it are paid off
  • you will need to decide if any Inheritance Tax needs to be paid to HMRC once the estate has been settled.  Currently the threshold is £325,000
  • Probate is a very time consuming and sometimes stressful process which can takes weeks, or even up to a year in some cases, to complete.  This may be difficult to manage if you work full time and may impact on your free or family time

Here is a short video explaining more about inheritance tax.

Can you get fixed fee probate solicitors?

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:

Fee
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:
  • Estate of 1 property and up to 4 accounts
£1500 + VAT
  • Estate of 1 property and from 4 up to 10 accounts
£2100 + VAT
  • Additional charge of there is no will
£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.

Where can I find a probate solicitor?

If you leave your details at the bottom of this page, we can arrange for a probate specialist to help you through the process. We’ve discussed this issue with many solicitors so we will only put you in touch with a probate firm that we have confidence in to do a good job at a fair cost.

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:

  • whether the financial affairs of the person who died were in order;
  • what the person who died owned and where it is;
  • whether the person who died had an interest in a business or a farm;
  • what the will or the rules of intestacy say;
  • whether there are any legal disputes (claims against the estate or claims by the estate);
  • whether inheritance tax needs to be paid; and
  • making sure that all HM Revenue & Customs files are closed and that matters relating to income tax, benefits agencies and pensions have been sorted out.  

About the author

Part of this content around the pitfalls of doing probate yourself was first published by Susan Glenholme, the Managing Partner for Debenhams Ottoway.

As well as being managing partner and head of the private wealth team, Susan is recognised by Chambers and Partners UK legal directory, features in the legal 500, as one of the leading private client lawyers in the UK.

Susan can be contacted on 01727 735 636.

 

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Do you still have questions about Probate and have not yet engaged a solicitor? If so, leave your details below and the UK Care Guide will ask a solicitor to call you.  They will be able to answer your questions and help you through the process.