Dealing with the loss of a relative or friend can be a stressful time and most people are unsure about what action to take.
At Wilkin Chapman, our experienced probate solicitors will handle the process with great sensitivity and help you through what can be a very upsetting and confusing time.
We understand that no two matters are the same, so we offer a bespoke service tailored to your individual needs.
Our probate solicitors will inform you in very simple terms what is involved in administering an estate and the duties of an executor or administrator. This process can often be referred to as ‘obtaining probate’.
Probate is the legal process for dealing with the estate of someone who has died. It proves that a Will is valid (if there is one) and confirms who has the authority to administer the estate of the person who has died.
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Our probate solicitors have considerable expertise in all aspects of this complex area. Whether you want us to deal with everything on your behalf or just specific parts of the process, we can help you. We will discuss your requirements and you can decide what level of support will work best for you taking the anxiety out of what can otherwise prove to be a demanding and stressful situation.
Many of our team are qualified members of the Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners (STEP). This means that we have the technical expertise to guide you through any complex tax implications relating to the administration of the estate and ensure that all available reliefs and exemptions are claimed.
We can advise on agricultural property relief, business property relief and the complications of the reduced rate of tax for gifts to charities as well as the residence nil rate band and transferable nil rate bands. In some cases, we can do a Deed of Variation which may pass assets to beneficiaries in a more tax efficient manner.
Establish if there is a Will and who the executors are
Obtain valuations for the property
Register the death
Prepare the paperwork to obtain the Grant of Representation and deal with any necessary inheritance tax paperwork
Make funeral arrangements
Secure property and valuables and ensure relevant insurance cover is in place
Collect in the assets of the estate, pay the liabilities, investigate and deal with any tax issues and assist with the sale or transfer of any property
If there is no Will, establish who will deal with the administration and who will benefit under the intestacy rules
Pay monetary legacies and distribute specific gifts of any personal items
Identify the assets and liabilities of the estate to see if a Grant of Representation is required
Prepare final accounts to reflect the monies received and paid out and distribute the remaining estate in accordance with the Will or intestacy rules
Clear instructions as to what your requirements are
As much up-to-date financial paperwork as you can locate
The death certificate
The original Will if we do not already hold this
Current utility bills and house insurance paperwork
Current names, addresses and dates of birth of beneficiaries
We have set out below a guide as to how much our specialist probate service is likely to cost.
As every probate is different and depends on the size and complexity of each estate, together with the amount of assistance that is required, our probate solicitors would be happy to discuss your matter and give you a clear indication of the 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.
In addition to the Grant of Probate, we 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.
The work involved in the administration of an estate can range 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 £173 to £360 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 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 are estates involving residential property, banks, building society accounts, and non-complex investments such as ISAs or shareholdings and generally are below the inheritance tax threshold (inheritance tax is not payable).
We estimate that these types of matters take between 20 and 35 hours at an average hourly rate of £266 inclusive of VAT. This means on average fees are between £5,320 to £9,310 inclusive of VAT.
VAT is currently charged at 20%
Medium estates are estates involving residential property, banks, building society accounts, and non-complex investments such as ISAs or 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 and 60 hours at an average hourly rate of £300 inclusive of VAT. This means on average fees are between £10,500 to £18,000 inclusive of VAT.
VAT is currently charged at 20%
Complex estates are estates involving residential property, banks, building society accounts, and non-complex investments such as ISAs or shareholdings. They are taxable to inheritance tax and may contain trusts, but unlike medium estates, these complex estates may consist of business interests or agricultural land.
We estimate that these types of matters take between 60 and 100 hours at an average hourly rate of £330 inclusive of VAT. This means on average fees are between £19,800 to £33,000 inclusive of VAT.
VAT is currently charged at 20%
Obtain the Grant of Probate on your behalf
Collect 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 or valuer
An office copy of the 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 or disgruntled beneficiaries
Disputes between executors or beneficiaries - these will be referred to our dispute resolution department which will provide a separate cost estimate and quote of 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 conveyancing or agriculture property teams, who will provide an estimate/quote of their fees on request
Should the deceased's finances be in good order and easily determined at the 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 and liabilities are not fully known, and thorough investigations may need to make 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 raises 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 or 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 three and six months to complete the necessary work for the submission of the application for the Grant of Probate and the Grant should be received four weeks thereafter.
It will then take a further six 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 a 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, and valuers for residential properties and 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 or accountant as necessary, and obtain inheritance tax clearance if applicable. Our probate solicitors 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.
Our probate solicitors will arrange for payment of all the liabilities of the estate, and 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 and 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 or 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 on the government website.
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 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, or sell or transfer a property.
Our probate solicitors 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 will be between £1,440 and £1,800 inclusive of VAT.
A simple estate is one involving residential property, banks, building society accounts, and non-complex investments such as ISAs or shareholdings and is non-taxable to inheritance tax. The fixed fee is likely to be towards the lower end of the above range if there is one executor, one residential property and a sole bank account and towards the higher end of the range if there are multiple executors, accounts, and assets.
VAT is currently charged at 20%
Where inheritance tax is not payable, we will determine the gross and net estate for the application for the Grant of Probate.
We will also prepare the Legal Statement 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 of the 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 two weeks of the 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 two weeks of the application being made. From receiving your paperwork to obtaining the Grant, this would typically take six weeks.
This is however dependent on the availability of the executors to sign the paperwork and the Probate Registry issuing the Grant. This process can take as little as four 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 the government website.
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.
Our probate solicitors 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
Certainty Will Search (to ensure most current Will is being proved plus S27 Trustee Act Notice (to protect against unknown creditors, advertisements in local newspapers are charged in addition)
£238.80 inc VAT
Additional copies of the Grant, if required. Cost per copy (OC)
VAT is currently charged at 20%
Submit an enquiry and one of our team of experts will be in touch as soon as possible to discuss your needs.
Or call the probate team on 01522 515971