Estate Administration ('Probate')

The death of a loved one can be hard to come to terms with at the best of times, without the added trauma of having to sort out their personal affairs. It can be difficult to know where to start.

‘Probate’ is a general term used to describe the process of dealing with an estate, although its strict meaning relates to the issue of a document called a ‘Grant of Probate’ by the Probate Court and which enables the Executors of the Will to deal with the assets of the deceased. If no Will was made by the deceased then a different type of Grant will be issued by the Court – a ‘Grant of Representation’ is a general term for all the different types of Grant which exist.

Extracting a Grant of Representation is not always required, but if it is necessary then certain forms need to be completed and filed with the Probate Court. This is where we can help. We provide a range of options from doing all the basic groundwork required so that the Grant can be obtained, to administering the entire estate (and which includes applying for Probate, dealing with all the assets, transferring any assets into the names of beneficiaries, paying debts, trying to mitigate inheritance tax, dealing with income tax, preparing Estate Accounts for the beneficiaries and generally ensuring that what needs to be dealt with has been done). We can do as much or as little as you wish.

We can also prepare Deeds of Variation if it is necessary to alter the way in which the estate passes, and which can sometimes save the amount of inheritance tax payable.

What probate costs

Our professional regulations require us to publish our charges for dealing with the administration of an estate. This can be difficult since no two estates are ever the same. Factors such as whether the deceased made a Will, the value, amount and nature of their assets and the number of beneficiaries and Executors involved will obviously have an effect on what our charges are likely to be.

However, the Firm's policy has always been to make our charges clear from the beginning by providing a fixed quote upfront to clients where possible and we have never charged a percentage of the value of the estate, sometime referred to as the 'value element'. Some providers of probate services do charge on this basis but we feel that the value of an estate will not always impact on the cost of dealing with it. As estate worth £1,000,000 consisting of a few bank accounts will take less work to deal with than an estate worth half that value which consists of properties and shareholdings.

In all cases we provide a free initial meeting with potential clients where we can discuss the matter in more detail before advising what our fees will be. There is never any obligation to instruct us and there is no 'hard sell'; it can often be easier for clients to talk to us face-to-face and we always encourage clients to consider what has been discussed during the meeting and the charges we have quoted before they instruct us to proceed.

We offer two types of probate services and our average charges can be explained as follows

1. Obtaining the Grant of Representation (e.g. a Grant of Probate)

We do all the work necessary to extract the Grant and this includes our intial meeting with you, obtaining the information from banks/asset providers etc so that the value of the estate can be ascertained, preparing the forms required to extract the Grant and applying to the Probate Registry for the issue of the Grant. Once the Grant has been obtained, we pass it to you so that you can deal with the rest of the administration yourself (we can obviously deal with this for you; see the next step below).

Our charges for obtaining the Grant where no inheritance tax is payable and where you already know the value of the assets and liabilities in the estate would, on average, amount to £595 plus VAT and disbursements (see below for an explanation of the possible disbursements arising and what they cost). If you do not konw the value of the estate then we can obtain this from each bank/asset provider etc and our charges for this would be an additional £200 plus VAT. This is only an approximate amount, which may vary depending on the number of banks etc we would need to contact.

If inheritance tax is payable then considerably more work is involved since lengthier forms need to be completed. Our charges in such a case would amount, on average, to £1,100 plus VAT and disbursements. We would expect to obtain a valuation of the estate ourselves so that the correct information is obtained and consequently the correct amount of inheritance tax paid.

As mentioned above, we always offer a free initial meeting to prospective clients so that we can find out more about the estate and the amount of work likely to be involved and a proper and transparent charge can be quoted up-front.

2. Obtaining the Grant of Representation and undertaking the administraion of the entire estate

The work involved here includes undertaking everything necessary so that the Grant can be issued, following which we can arrange to send it to all those asset providers who require sight of it. We will collect in the assets, pay any debts in the estate and account to the beneficiaries for the amount calculated as due to them by drafting Estate Accounts. We will also oversee the payment of any legacies in the Will.

If no inheritance tax is payable, our charges for dealing with the estate would, on average, amount to £1,900 plus VAT and disbursements. If there are numerous legacies and/or beneficiaries, this may increase our charges and we would need to know how many legatees/beneficiaries there are in order to provide an accurate quote.

If inheritance tax is payable, our charges for dealing with the entire administration would generally start from £3,900 plus VAT and disbursements and we would be able to provide an accurate quote once we have more information about the estate.

There are some instances where there is too much uncertainty in the estate to be able to provide an initial quote and we would therefore suggest that work is carried out on the basis of our hourly rate (currently £190 plus VAT) until such time as a quote can be provided. This can be because of factors such as where there is a large quantity of paperwork to sort out and steps need to be taken to ascertain what assets are relevant or where Executors and/or beneficiaries do not get on and therefore the administration of the estate might not go as smoothly as hoped.

As we have tried to point out, there are always differences between each and every estate we deal with and therefore trying to provide a guide as to what our costs might be is difficult and can itself be misleading; our recent charges for administering estates have ranged from £300 for obtaining a Grant in a very straightforward estate where we could not justify charging any more to over £5,000 where no inheritance tax was payable but we were required to oversee everything from registering the client's death to overseeing the clearance of the house and undertaking everything else necessary to complete the administration. This is why we would encourage you to come and see us so that we can provide you with an accurate quote.

What are disbursements?

Disbursements are costs related to your matter that are payable to third parties. The list below provides some common probate disbursements:

Compulsory disbursements

  • Probate application fee of £155 plus 50p per copy of the Grant required (one copy is usually needed per asset in the estate). Please note that the Government has announced plans to introduce new fees which relate to the value of the estate.
  • Oath swearing fee of £5 plus £2 per 'exhibit' (i.e. a Will/Codicil) per Executor. Therefore if the deceased made a Will, each Executor would pay £7 to swear the probate papers, two Executors would pay £14 and so on. If the deceased made a Codicil as well as a Will then each Executor would pay £9 to swear the probate papers.

Optional disbursements

  • Statutory advertisements for creditors (sometimed referred to as 'section 27 notices'): these are designed to advise any creditors of the deceased that they have a limited period to make known to the Executors any debts the deceased had. They tend to cost in the region of £200 and adverts need to be placed in both the London Gazette and the deceased's local newspaper in order to be effective. The total cost therefore depends on the local newspaper's own charge, which varies from region to region.
  • A search of an unclaimed assets register: it can be useful to undertake such a seach if an Executor is unsure as to the extent of the deceased's estate and whether there may be 'hidden assets'. A seach costs £162 including VAT.
  • Bankruptcy searches of £1 per legatee and beneficiary. We advise that these are undertaken prior to distributing the estate to ensure that the Executors are protected in the event that a legatee/beneficiary has had bankruptcy proceedings instituted against them before or during the administration of the estate.

How long does probate take?

Again, there is no typical average as to how long the administration of an estate should take.

Obtaining the information required to value the estate can take up to a month, and we are usually able to prepare the necessary probate forms within two to three weeks once the information is to hand. Once the Executors have sworn the probate papers, we are usually able to apply for the Grant within a week, with the Probate Registry taking between three and five weeks to issue the Grant. Once the Grant is to hand, it can take at least a month to collect in all the assets. Most straightforward estates are often dealt with in four to six months and more complicated estates where inheritance tax is payable can take eight months or more to deal with. Some very complicated estates can go on for longer than that.



At our office: 16 Bolton Street, Brixham, Devon TQ5 9DE

By phone: 01803 850850

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Friday – 9am to 5pm

Early morning, late evening and weekend appointments are available – please call us to arrange