Wills & Probate
You should make a will to make sure your possessions and assets go to the people you want, not who the State says.
You can name your Executor, Guardians for your children and say how your funeral should be dealt with.
What is Probate?
Probate is the process of administering a dead person’s estate: sorting their
assets and debts, paying taxes and debts before distributing inheritances.
When someone dies they leave an estate comprising assets and liabilities. If
they make a Will at least one Executor is named. If there is no Will an intestacy
arises and the law dictates who is entitled to administer and benefit from the
If you accept the office of Executor or are a personal representative in an
intestacy you may wish to have our professional advice about what is involved,
for example, whether a Grant of Probate from the Court is needed; identifying
assets and liabilities, in sole and joint names, and providing date of death
valuations; whether – if there is a potential liability to Inheritance Tax – there may
be exemptions or reliefs that are available such as Spousal Exemption; Business
Property Relief; Nil Rate Residence Band; unused nil rate Residence Band. The
basic Inheritance Tax threshold is £325,000 net estate.
We provide a free initial consultation to help you decide whether you require
specific legal advice and assistance. You may decide to instruct us to give
limited advice on discrete aspects; or to undertake all work needed to obtain a
Grant of Probate but for you then to deal with the administration, distribution and
final accounting yourself; or to deal with the entire estate from start to finish.
Our charges are based on a number of factors such as the value of the estate,
how simple or complex it is, the number of beneficiaries.
We can provide you with an estimate of our fees (to which VAT must be added)
once we have basic details.
We will try to agree a fixed fee for your peace of mind.
No two estates are the same.
The Probate process varies depending on the contents of the Will, the assets,
creditors and beneficiaries of the estate.
The basic steps include the following tasks:
- Identifying all assets and debts of the estate
- Completing the appropriate Return of Estate Information Form –
Inheritance Tax Return – and paying any tax due
- Applying for the Grant of Probate
- Receiving the Grant (approximately 8 weeks after lodging the application
with the Probate Court)
- Paying debts
- Preparing Estate Accounts and obtaining Executors’ approval
- Distribution of assets, subject to the possible impact of Inheritance Act
claims (see under Challenges, below)
Probate can be complicated by disputes involving HM Revenue & Customs
(HMRC) Executors, creditors and/or beneficiaries.
In this Covid-19 era, the process is likely to take around 9 to 12 months but much
depends on the size and complexity of the estates. Any disputes can significantly
delay the administration of an estate.
Our service is tailored to the needs of each client. The level of our charges
depends on how much work you want us to do. We will therefore
- Consider how much work is involved based on your requirements and the
size of the estate;
- Give you a fees estimate before beginning our work, based on the number
of hours likely to be involved at our solicitor charging rate which is
currently £195 per hour plus VAT
- Try and quote a fixed-fee cost, if possible, for your peace of mind
- Consider with you whether you wish to have the certainty of being charged
a fixed percentage of the gross estate (plus disbursements and VAT)
Be aware that a Will can be challenged if
- It is forged
- The Testator lacked testamentary capacity
- There was undue influence when the Will was made
- An applicant was financially dependent on the deceased and receives
nothing (Inheritance Act claims): this means that Executors are advised
that if there is a possibility of such a claim, they should not distribute for 10
months after the date of issue of the Grant or else risk personal liability.
Changing Will after death
A Deed of Variation may be appropriate, for example to reduce Inheritance Tax
liability. This could cost £500 to £750 plus VAT.
Rights of Beneficiaries
They are entitled to be informed of progress in the estate administration.
Executors must maintain Estate Accounts and make them available on request to
Our charges for fully administering a straightforward estate are usually around
2.25% of the value of the gross estate, with a likely minimum fee of £975 plus
VAT, assuming no more than 5 hours’ work.
A standard fixed fee Probate service is designed to administer the estate as it
appears, on the information you give us, and does not include additional work
which emerges later. We will provide you with estimates of any extra fees.
Additional work that may be required
- Registering the death and arranging the funeral
- Finalising tax to the date of death
- Obtaining details of lifetime gifts (if information unknown to Executors)
- Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) investigation in respect of
- Negotiation with HMRC re Inheritance Tax valuations of assets
- Planning or development issues in relation to land
- Arranging insurance indemnities re missing documents or certificates
- Instructing tracing agents to locate missing beneficiaries
Additional work that may add value
Claims for any of these to reduce Inheritance Tax liability:
- Any transferable nil rate band from estate of previous spouse/civil partner
(a considerable amount of information/documentation will be required
about the earlier estate)
- Residential Nil Rate Band (RNRB)
- Unused RNRB from estate of previous spouse/civil partner
- Claim for loss relief (if assets are sold for less than the date of death
- Advising on any formal variation of Will
The final legal fee may vary depending on the makeup of the estate assets and
liabilities and their values.
Our percentage rate may vary if the Estate is:-
- Over £1,000,000 when a reduction may be appropriate
- Very straightforward, with just a few assets of little value
- Complex. The likely administration may justify a higher fee
Disbursements as at August 2021
(To be paid from the assets of the estate)
- Probate Court fee of £155 plus £1.50 per copy Grant
- Notices to creditors (Section 27 Trustee Act 1925) London Gazette and
local paper estimated at £150 to £200 in all
- Valuation fees for property, shares etc.
- Insurance – property etc.
- Bankruptcy-only Land Charges Department searches of £2 per beneficiary
- Accountant’s fees to finalise tax to date of death
Note – Sale of properties forming part of the estate – our associated charges,
disbursements and estate agents fees are not included as part of our Probate