Probate

When a person dies, you as the executor must have the authority to deal with the deceased’s assets in the form of property and/or possessions. The legal document that grants this is called probate, and we can guide you through the process to make it run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

If the deceased leaves assets in their sole name that exceed £5,000 in total, a Grant of Probate has to be obtained. If there is no will, this is replaced by a Letter of Administration. In both cases, these documents give you the authority for the closing of bank accounts, selling or transferring of property, clearing of the deceased’s debts and the distribution of the estate to beneficiaries.

We understand that this can be a difficult time, which is why our team of specialist probate solicitors offers a flexible and tailored service to meet your needs, wellbeing and budget in mind. Some clients choose a full probate package whilst others may need help with only particular aspects, so we offer the following services:

  • Obtaining the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration document only.
  • The completion of the Inheritance Tax paperwork, either the short form account IHT 205 (2006) (where there is no inheritance tax to pay) or the full account IHT 400.
  • The completion of income tax returns for the previous tax year and to the date of the deceased’s death.
  • Telephone advice and assistance to guide you through the probate process if you wish to deal with all of the paperwork yourself.
  • Checking documents on your behalf before they are submitted to the Probate Registry and HM Revenue and Customs.

Whether you want us to deal with everything on your behalf or simply look through your completed forms, we have ten qualified members of The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) specialising in tax planning, trust and estates to a recognised international standard. Get in touch with our probate solicitors today and we can discuss exactly what will work best for you, taking the stress out of what can otherwise prove a demanding and stressful situation.

Probate

Thank you for considering Wilkin Chapman for specialist probate advice. We have set out below a guide as to how much our specialist service is likely to cost.

As every Probate is different and dependant on the size and complexity of each estate together with the amount of assistance that is required, we would be happy to discuss your matter and give you a clearer indication of cost before you proceed.

Grant of Probate

We recognise that some executors may wish to deal with the administration of a simple estate themselves and in those circumstances we can assist by obtaining the Grant of Probate only. A Grant is required to enable the executors to collect in the assets of the estate/or transfer them to the beneficiaries e.g. to collect in monies held in bank accounts, sell or transfer shares, sell or transfer a property.

Distribution

In addition to the Grant of Probate, Wilkin Chapman can assist the executors by collecting assets, paying any liabilities and distributing the estate in accordance with the terms of the will or intestacy rules.

Grant and distribution fees

The work involved in the administration of an estate can be very wide ranging depending on the assets involved and the terms of the Will. Our fees will depend on the individual circumstances of the matter and the work required to be undertaken. Fees are calculated on an hourly rate basis, with the hourly rates being commensurate with the qualification and expertise of the team members. These range from £96 to £276 inclusive of VAT. When we meet with you we will discuss the most cost effective way for us to pursue your matter and the suitable level of fee earner and their hourly rate.

We have defined three categories of estates: simple, medium and complex. If, for example, the executors are willing to undertake some of the administration themselves the costs will be at the lower end of the range. If there are multiple complexities or we are solely dealing with the administration with little assistance from the executors, the costs will be at the higher end of the range or may require a specific estimate or quote.

Simple estates

Simple estates are estates involving residential property, banks, building society accounts, non complex investments such as ISAs/shareholdings and generally are non taxable to Inheritance Tax.

We estimate that these types of matters take between 20 to 35 hours at an average hourly rate of £214 inclusive of VAT. This means on average fees are between £4,280 to £7,490 inclusive of VAT.

Medium estates

Medium estates are estates involving residential property, banks, building society accounts, non complex investments such as ISAs/shareholdings. However, unlike simple estates these medium estates are taxable to Inheritance Tax and may contain trusts created by the Will.

We estimate that these types of matters take between 35 to 60 hours at an average hourly rate of £214 inclusive of VAT. This means on average fees are between £7,490 to £12,840 inclusive of VAT.

Complex estates

Complex estates are estates involving residential property, banks, building society accounts, non complex investments such as ISAs/shareholdings. They are taxable to Inheritance Tax, may contain trusts but unlike medium estates, these complex estates may consist of business interests / agricultural land.

We estimate that these types of matters take between 60 to 100 hours at an average hourly rate of £214 inclusive of VAT. This means on average fees are between £12,840 to £21,400 inclusive of VAT.

Disbursements

Disbursements are payable in addition to the legal fees. These are costs related to your matter that are payable to third parties, such as the fee which has to be paid to the Probate Registry when lodging the Grant application. We handle the payment of the disbursements on your behalf to assist with the estate cash flow and ensure a smoother process. No disbursement over £100 will be incurred without your consent.

Probate application fee (these fees are soon to be increased for estates over £50,000 to £250 - £6,000 depending on estate value)£155
Certainty Will Search (to ensure most current Will is being proved plus S27 Trustee Act Notice (to protect against unknown creditors) £238.80 inc VAT
Additional copies of the Grant, if required. Cost per copy (OC) 50p each

FAQs

  • Obtain the Grant of Probate on your behalf
  • Collect in the assets of the estate
  • Arrange for the payment of liabilities
  • Prepare Final Estate Accounts for your approval
  • Deal with the final distribution of the estate.
  • Deal with any queries raised by HM Revenue & Customs in relation to Inheritance Tax should this be applicable with the assistance of your Accountants/Valuer.
  • The original Grant of Probate and a certified copy of the Death Certificate will be retained in our strong room should it be required in the future.
  • The deceased's Income Tax affairs to the date of death and during the administration period (unless the Informal Rules apply).
  • Any claims made on the estate by potential creditors/disgruntled beneficiaries
  • Disputes between executors or beneficiaries - these will be referred to our Litigation Department who will provide a separate cost estimate/quote for their fees on request.
  • In some circumstances it may be necessary for a referral to be made to another firm for independent legal advice.
  • Any Pension entitlements or any queries raised by The Pension Service (DWP) in relation to the receipt of means tested benefits.
  • Any transfer of land and property within the estate or sale of land and property. This will be dealt with separately by our Residential or Agricultural Conveyancing Department who will provide an estimate/quote for their fees on request.
  • Should the deceased's finances be in good order and easily determined at date of death this will reduce the costs involved in the first stage of the administration - determining the assets and liabilities of the estate.
  • In some estates the deceased's assets/liabilities are not fully known and thorough investigations may need to made to determine the size of the estate, thereby increasing costs.
  • Assistance from the executors in determining the size of the estate can greatly assist and thereby reduce legal costs.
  • If the estate is subject to Inheritance Tax and HMRC raise an enquiry this can add to the legal costs, we aim to produce full Inheritance Tax paperwork to reduce this risk, however in some circumstances an enquiry by HMRC is inevitable.
  • Executors, if willing can assist with the administration of the estate keeping beneficiaries informed and dealing with some administration tasks, for example utility accounts/ checking a property weekly to fulfil the insurance conditions.
  • We aim to work with the executors at an early stage to determine the service we are to provide in order to keep the legal costs to a minimum. Some executors however wish to have little involvement and thereby in these circumstances the legal costs will be higher.

We estimate that it will take between 3 to 6 months to complete the necessary work for the submission of the application for the Grant of Probate and the Grant should be received 4 weeks thereafter.

It will then take a further 6 to 12 months to complete the administration of the estate. Should the estate be subject to Inheritance Tax and queries be raised by HM Revenue & Customs then these can take some considerable time to be resolved. You will be kept fully updated throughout the progress of the matter.

An initial meeting is arranged to identify the executors and beneficiaries, and to undertake an initial assessment of the estate value. From this initial information a specific estimate will be provided. This estimate will be based on the process required to apply for the Grant and also whether the estate will require full Inheritance Tax paperwork to be submitted.

The assets and liabilities of the estate will then be accurately determined, and valued as necessary. This may require the services of accountants particularly for businesses, land agents for land, valuers for residential properties/house contents, who will make a separate charge for their work. We will then complete the necessary Inheritance Tax paperwork and the Statement of Truth to make the application for the Grant.

We will deal with any queries raised by HM Revenue and Customs with your valuer/accountant as necessary and obtain Inheritance Tax clearance if applicable. We will collect all the liquid assets of the estate, seeking instructions on the transfer/encashment of investments and will automatically have a bank account available for the estate.

We will arrange for payment of all the liabilities of the estate, prepare interim (if required) and final estate accounts and income tax certificates for the beneficiaries. We will then deal with any interim and final distribution of the estate, referring any land/property transfers or sales to the relevant department for which a separate charge will be made.

Inheritance Tax is payable depending on the value of the net taxable estate, the nature of the assets in an estate, and the beneficiaries in receipt of these assets.

For example any assets passing to a spouse/charities are exempt from Inheritance Tax. The rate of Inheritance Tax if payable is 40% (unless 10% or more of the estate is left to charities then the rate is reduced to 36%).

Various exemptions may be available to offset this charge such as for example the nil rate band (£325,000). Further guidance can be found at https://www.gov.uk/topic/personal-tax/inheritance-tax

Grant only - Fixed fee

We recognise that some executors may wish to deal with the administration of a simple estate themselves and in those circumstances we can assist by obtaining the Grant of Probate only. A Grant is required to enable the executors to collect in the assets of the estate/or transfer them to the beneficiaries e.g. to collect in monies held in bank accounts, sell or transfer shares, sell or transfer a property.

We can help you through this difficult process by obtaining the Grant of Probate on your behalf.

Our fixed fee for obtaining the Grant only in a simple estate which does not require full Inheritance tax paperwork is: £1,140 inc VAT

A simple estate is an estate involving residential property, banks, building society accounts, non complex investments such as ISAs/shareholdings and is non taxable to Inheritance Tax.

Disbursements

Disbursements are payable in addition to the legal fees. These are costs related to your matter that are payable to third parties, such as the fee which has to be paid to the Probate Registry when lodging the Grant application. We handle the payment of the disbursements on your behalf to ensure a smoother process.

Probate application fee (these fees are soon to be increased for estates over £50,000 to £250 - £6,000 depending on estate value)£155
Certainty Will Search (to ensure most current will is being proved plus S27 Trustee Act Notice (to protect against unknown creditors)£238.80 inc VAT
Additional copies of the Grant, if required. Cost per copy (OC)50p each

FAQs

We will complete an Inheritance Tax form called an IHT 205. This document is required where the estate value is below the Inheritance Tax threshold.

We will also prepare the statement of truth document which has to be signed by the executors to prove the validity of the will or confirm that there is no will and the Intestacy Rules apply.

We will then submit the application to the Probate Registry.

Determining the value of the assets and liabilities of the estate as at date of death, any estate administration.

This is a fixed fee for a defined service. Should any further work or advice be required a separate fee estimate will be provided on request.

We aim to complete the necessary paperwork within 2 weeks of full information being supplied to us. An appointment with you is either arranged at our offices or the documents sent to you for signing. An explanation of the paperwork is either provided verbally or by letter.

The Grant is usually issued within 2 weeks of the application being made. From receiving your paperwork to obtaining the Grant, this would usually take 6 weeks.

This is however dependant on the availability of the executors to sign the paperwork and the Probate Registry issuing the Grant. This process can take as little as 4 weeks.

An initial meeting is arranged to determine if this service best suits your requirements. We will then identify the information you will need to obtain to enable us to complete the necessary paperwork. When this has been supplied we will complete the necessary paperwork on your behalf.

You will then be required to sign the Inheritance Tax paperwork, and sign the statement of truth for executors. We will then make an application to the Probate Registry on your behalf.

When the Grant has been issued we will notify you and provide you with office copies to enable you to administer the estate.

The Original Grant of Probate and certified death certificate are stored in our strongroom free of charge should these be required in the future (at no additional cost).

To qualify for this service the net taxable estate you are dealing with needs to be less than the allowances available for Inheritance Tax and meet the "excepted estate" criteria. Please see: www.gov.uk/hmrc-internal-manuals/inheritance-tax

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