How Much Does Probate Cost in the UK?

March 2024 

 

How Much Does Probate Cost? | March 2024?

In this article we will explain:

  • what probate is and who it applies to
  • the cost of probate fees that apply and the probate application fee
  • when probate may not be required
  • we answer the question “how much does probate cost” and what the average cost of probate is in the UK
  • we look at how much money before probate is required
  • the pitfalls of doing it yourself
  • where you can find a probate solicitor and probate services
  • how much do solicitors charge for probate

Topics that you will find covered on this page

Once a person passes away in England or Wales, their estate may need to go through a legal process known as probate.

However, this is only if its value exceeds £5,000. This involves applying for a grant of representation and administering the estate. Depending on the size and complexity of an estate, the cost of probate usually ranges from £273 to £10,000 plus VAT. 

Understanding Probate Fees and Inheritance Tax in the UK

In England and Wales, the main probate fees are:

  • A flat fee of £273 for the probate application if the estate is valued over £5,000. No fee if the estate is £5,000 or less.
  • Professional fees for legal services, which can vary widely depending on the complexity of the estate. On average, solicitor’s fees for probate range from £2,000-£10,000 plus VAT.

Inheritance tax may be payable if the estate exceeds the current threshold of £325,000.

The standard inheritance tax rate is 40% on the value above this threshold, but exemptions apply – for example, if everything above the threshold is left to a spouse or civil partner.

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Breakdown of the Cost of Probate

The cost of probate is made up of several components. The largest of these is usually the probate application fee, a fixed fee that must be paid to the Probate Registry to process the application for the legal right of probate. As mentioned previously, this amount currently stands at £273 for any estate worth over £5,000.

The main components of probate costs are:

  • Probate application fee – a fixed fee of £273 if the estate exceeds £5,000.
  • Solicitor’s fees for legal services – The Law Society estimates total fees range from £2,000-£10,000 plus VAT, depending on complexity.
  • Fees for valuing assets like property.
  • Accountant’s fees if income or capital gains tax returns are required.
  • Additional costs like court fees if the will is contested.

Probate Application Fee

The probate application fee is a fixed fee that is charged by the Probate Registry. This is currently £273, as long as the value of the estate is over £5,000. Any estate worth less than £5,000 is not charged for this process. 

This fixed fee covers the Probate Registry’s administrative costs for processing the probate application and issuing the grant of probate.

If you choose to use a probate solicitor to handle the probate application, they will charge fees in addition to the probate registry application fee. 

How Much Does an Estate Have to be Worth to Go to Probate?

In England and Wales, probate is not usually required if the total estate is worth less than £5,000 or if all assets were jointly owned. For estates above £5,000, or those with assets solely owned by the deceased, probate is typically needed.

The threshold can vary – some financial institutions may require probate for smaller estates, while others may use a higher threshold.

The value of the estate for probate purposes is the total value of all the deceased’s assets, minus any debts they owed at the time of their death. Property, money, and possessions, as well as any gifts made in the seven years before death, are all considerable assets. 

Can Probate Fees be Paid from the Estate?

In most cases, probate fees can be paid from the estate. This includes the probate application fee, legal fees, and any other costs related to the administration of the estate. The executor of the estate, who is often a family member or a probate solicitor, is responsible for paying these fees. Consequently, they make the decision over whether or not to use the estate to pay them. 

However, these fees must be paid before the estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries. This can sometimes create a cash flow problem, depending on whether the majority of the estate’s assets are tied up in property or other non-liquid assets.

In these cases, it may be necessary for the executor to arrange a loan or use their own funds to pay the probate fees. Once probate has been granted and the assets have been liquidated, all of this can be reimbursed from the estate.

"The cost of probate is split between the fixed costs, which is the application fee, and the variable costs, which are the costs of the specialist you use, whether that be a solicitor, probate professional or a bank."

What is the Approximate Fee for a Solicitor to do probate?

The cost of hiring a solicitor to act as an executor can vary significantly. Whilst some solicitors may charge a fixed fee, others may charge a percentage of the value of the estate. The Law Society estimates that the average cost for a solicitor to act as an executor is between 1% and 5% of the value of the estate, plus VAT.

Conversely, this is just a guideline, and the actual cost can be higher or lower depending on the complexity of the estate. If the estate includes foreign assets, multiple properties, or if there are disputes among the beneficiaries, the solicitor’s fees may be higher.

Additionally, some solicitors may charge for their services on an hourly rate basis, ranging from £100 to £300 per hour, depending on the experience and expertise of the solicitor. A more senior solicitor will charge more for their time. 

How Much Does it Cost to Use a Bank for Probate Services?

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, plus VAT.

Our view is that you should use a probate specialist rather than your bank for probate services.

Solicitors Fees for Administering a Will

The cost of hiring a solicitor to administer a will can also vary. The Law Society estimates that on average, solicitor fees for administering a will range from £2,000 – £10,000 plus VAT. The fees vary depending on the complexity of the estate.

However, it is important to note that this is simply an average.

If the estate includes foreign assets, multiple properties, or if there are disputes among the beneficiaries, the solicitor’s fees may be higher. If the deceased did not leave a will, or if the will is contested, the cost of administering the will can be further increased.

It’s also worth noting that the solicitor’s fees for administering a will are in addition to any probate fees or court fees that may be required. 

Do Solicitors Fees Come Out Of The Estate?

The cost of probate is usually paid from the estate so you won’t have to worry about getting into financial difficulties.

Ways to Reduce Probate Expenses

You can reduce expenses by dealing with probate yourself, known as DIY probate. This involves handling all aspects of the probate process, from applying for a grant of probate, to administering the estate and distributing the assets.

If you wish to use a solicitor, different probate solicitors and probate services charge different fees. Therefore, it’s worth getting several quotes before deciding who to use. Look for the best deal when you are looking into the probate process. 

Finally, if the estate is small or uncomplicated, it may be possible to use a probate fee calculator to estimate the likely costs, helping you to budget for the probate process and avoid unexpected deductions.

Who offers the best value for money?

As you can see from above, there are 3 types of service that can support you with probate and estate administration. They all do exactly the same thing but the costs vary significantly.

If we take the example of someone with an estate of £300,000, without including disbursements, as they would all charge similar for this, this is how the costs would break down.

  • Using a bank with a 5% fee = £15,000 plus VAT at 20% (£3,000). The total cost would be £18,000 plus disbursements
  • Using a solicitor charging 3.5% = £10,500 plus VAT at 20% (£2,100).  The total cost would be £12,600 plus disbursements
  • Using a Probate specialist, charging 1.99% = £5,970 plus VAT at 20% (£1,194).  The total cost would be £7,164 plus disbursements.

As you can see the difference in fees for probate between using a bank and a probate specialist is extraordinary.  A probate specialist is more than half of the price of a bank and still significantly cheaper than a solicitor’s probate fees.  The key thing to remember here is that all three provide the same type of service.

In our experience, using probate specialists or solicitors will often also mean you get a more personal service. In addition, specialist and solicitors probate fees for probate will be much cheaper.

"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. "

How much are fixed fee probate solicitors?

There are some fixed fee probate solicitors that charge a set amount for their service.   It is advisable to get a probate quote from a few fixed fee probate solicitors so that you can compare their prices.

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,  the probate quote from fixed fee probate solicitors is always subject to change if the information is given wrongly or new complexities arise.

The Role of a Probate Lawyer

A probate lawyer is a legal professional who helps executors of the estate, or ‘administrators’ if there is no valid will, to manage the probate process.

If claims are brought against the estate or the will is contested, they can also help to manage the disbursement of the estate to the beneficiaries. 

Typically, a probate lawyer charges by the hour, and The Law Society suggests that total legal fees for probate can range from £1,000 to £3,000 or more. This depends on the complexity of the estate. 

Although hiring a probate lawyer may add to the initial cost of probate, their expertise can save time and prevent costly errors.

They can also help to ensure that all debts and taxes are correctly paid, and that the final distribution of assets is carried out according to the law. They are a good option to consider, particularly if the executor themselves is not familiar with probate law. 

Using a Probate Fees Calculator 

While probate fees calculators can provide ballpark estimates, they cannot account for all possible complexities and costs.

It is best to consult a legal professional for a more accurate assessment of potential probate fees and expenses.

Whilst these calculators can provide a rough estimate of the cost, they are not completely accurate. For example, if there is no valid will, or if disputes arise among beneficiaries, additional legal fees may be incurred that the calculator could not account for. 

Furthermore, a probate fees calculator does not take into account any potential inheritance tax or capital gains tax that may be due, which potentially significantly increases the overall cost of probate.

It is necessary to note that a probate fees calculator should not replace professional advice. It’s always recommended to consult with a probate lawyer or other legal professional, offering a more accurate understanding of potential probate costs.

Probate and Estate Administration Costs

In addition to the probate application fee and any legal fees, there are other costs involved in probate and estate administration. Typically, these are related to the handling of the deceased’s assets. 

Remember that there may be costs involved in collecting assets, such as closing bank accounts or selling property. Furthermore, there may also be costs associated with paying debts or taxes owed by the estate.

If the estate includes property, there may be capital gains tax to pay if the property has increased in value between the time of death and the time of sale.

Additionally, some estates may have multiple bank or building society accounts. In such cases, each financial institution may charge its own administration fee.

Professional services like property valuations, accountants and auctioneers may also be needed, generating further costs payable from the estate.

Average Cost of Probate and Contributing Factors

The average cost of probate can vary widely. The Law Society estimates average solicitor fees for probate range from £2,000 – £10,000. This excludes taxes and disbursements.

The wide range demonstrates how costs are influenced by the complexity of the estate. However, the exact cost of probate can be influenced by various factors.

If the estate consists of numerous assets, including multiple properties, businesses, and investments, or if there are foreign assets, the cost can be higher.

Similarly, if the estate is complicated due to disputes among beneficiaries or claims from unknown creditors, additional legal services may be required. This further increases the probate cost.

The presence of a valid will can also impact the total cost. For instance, if there is no will or if the existing will is contested, the probate process can become more complex and costly.

If the deceased person has not kept clear and comprehensive estate accounts, additional time and effort may be needed to identify and value the estate assets. This can further add to the cost. 

Professional legal services can help to ensure that the process is handled correctly and efficiently, ultimately saving time and stress. Rather than attempting to handle the probate process yourself, it’s worth considering hiring a Solicitor to save on legal costs. Whilst it may cost you money, it will allow you to avoid mistakes and misunderstandings.

Can You Get Legal Aid for probate?

Obtaining legal aid for probate can be challenging since legal aid is primarily available for certain types of cases, such as those involving criminal matters or issues related to family law. However, in specific circumstances, there may be some assistance available to help with probate fees. 

It is advisable to consult with legal aid organisations or seek advice from a solicitor specialising in probate law to explore potential options. In some cases, individuals with limited financial means may be eligible for limited legal aid for probate, particularly if the estate is complex or there are disputes involved. 

It is crucial to research the specific eligibility criteria and requirements for legal aid for probate in the respective jurisdiction to determine if such assistance is accessible.

how much money before probate is required

The Impact of Personal Representatives and Beneficiaries on Probate Costs

If the deceased appointed executors in their will, these individuals will typically act as the personal representatives. Alternatively, if there is no will, or the appointed executors are unwilling or unable to act, a close relative will usually act as the personal representative.

If the personal representative is a legally appointed executor, such as a solicitor or a bank, they will typically charge for their services, paid out of the estate funds.

The number of beneficiaries can also affect the cost of probate. If there is only one beneficiary, the probate process can be simpler and less costly. Alternatively, if there are multiple beneficiaries, or if any disputes arise, the probate process may be more complex and costs may rise.

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, without using probate services.

Probate, the process of dealing with someone’s estate (property, possessions, cash, savings) when they pass away, can be applied for without getting advice from a probate lawyer or probate specialists, 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, or to use probate services. 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 the will may include legal language which is based on law developed over 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. If you have any confusion, you may need to use probate specialists.

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. You can avoid this using a legal or probate service.

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 IHT consequences which can be addressed by such a variation and spotting this in time is crucial.

5 – Completing an Inheritance Tax return

If the value of the estate comes above the inheritance tax threshold, then a 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, so can give you advice and can get on with the administration of an estate efficiently on your behalf.

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 (CGT) 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. The solicitor’s work will also include retaining any monies on behalf of the estate in a client account.

Solicitors are required to hold professional indemnity insurance are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

As elderly client specialists, we are also able to add value for example by identifying cases where the money is owed to the estate for care funding which should have been met by the NHS and we can work to make 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.

What should I consider when deciding whether I need help from a probate solicitor or not?

You can be held legally responsible for any mistakes in dealing with probate.  You need to ensure that all money owed to the Estate is paid and any debts owed by it are paid off

In England and Wales, you will need to consider whether any Inheritance Tax needs to be paid to HMRC once the estate has been settled.  Currently, the inheritance tax threshold is £325,000, however there are different rules depending on who stands to inherit and what they are inheriting.

Probate is a very time consuming and sometimes stressful process which can take 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. A probate service can therefore save you time and money.

FAQ

1. What are solicitors probate fees and how are they calculated?

Solicitors’ probate fees are the costs associated with hiring a solicitor to handle the probate process. They cover a wide range of services, from applying for the grant of probate to administering the estate and distributing assets to beneficiaries. 

Although some solicitors may charge a fixed fee, others may charge a percentage of the value of the estate. Conversely, others charge on an hourly basis. These fees should be agreed upon in advance and detailed in a client care letter. 

2. How much are probate application fees?

Probate application fees are a fixed cost paid to the Probate Registry to process the application for a grant of probate. The current fee in the UK is £273 if the estate is valued at over £5,000, and free for estates under this amount.

If a solicitor is used to handle the application, additional fees will apply. These additional costs cover the solicitor’s time and expertise in preparing and submitting the application accurately and efficiently.

3. What is a granted probate?

Granted probate is the legal authority given to the executors named in a will to manage the deceased’s estate. The grant of probate is a legal document issued by the Probate Registry, confirming the executor’s authority and often required by banks, financial institutions, and other organisations before they release the deceased’s assets.

4. Who are legally appointed executors and what is their role in a complicated estate?

Legally appointed executors are individuals named in a will to manage the deceased’s estate. Alternatively, if there is no will available, or if the named executors are unable or unwilling to act, the court can appoint administrators to perform this role.

The executor may choose to hire a probate solicitor, helping to navigate the complexities involved in the probate process.

5. How does the probate process involve HM Revenue & Customs and the death certificate?

After the death certificate has been issued, and the value of the estate has been determined, the executor must report this to HMRC using the relevant HM Revenue & Customs forms. This is because they are responsible for assessing the deceased person’s assets and determining the inheritance tax due. 

The death certificate is a vital document in the probate process, required to register the death and apply for a grant of probate. It is also often required by banks, financial institutions, and other organisations before they will release the deceased’s assets.

Are you looking for a professional to help support you with probate?

Kings Court Trust are here to help you.

No upfront costs
Telephone support available
Different levels of help available

The UK Care Guide has partnered with Kings Court Trust, one of the UK’s leading probate specialists, to bring you a cost-effective and premium level probate service.  Kings Court Trust have won awards for their customer service and this is a key reason as to why we have partnered with them.

We realise that for many it is essential that probate is completed quickly.  That is why their dedicated service is designed to speed things up as much as possible for you and consequently reduce the time it takes for probate to be completed.

You can speak to Kings Court to discuss the support that you need.

Call : 0333 567 1608

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Meet the author

Rob Atherton

Rob Atherton

Rob writes and edits the content produced by the rest of the team. He has a degree in History from Leeds University and has producing, reviewing and editing the site since 2016

Meet The Team

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 a 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.

Other articles that you may find useful


Tips on avoiding Inheritance Tax

Tips on dealing with bereavement

Dealing with the Court of Protection

Are you looking for a professional to help you with probate?  Kings Court Trust can help you.

Call : 0333 567 1608

The UK's leading probate service