Wills, Trusts & Probate - Cost Information
We have an experienced team of qualified solicitors who can assist with the administration of a deceased person’s estate. We undertake a variety of such work ranging from quite simple and modest estates to large and complex ones.
We offer a bespoke service tailored to your needs. If you instruct us in relation to the administration of an estate, your matter will be handled by an individual solicitor with whom you will have direct contact and with whom you will be able to form a one to one relationship.
This individual will do the bulk of the work on your matter, but where possible and/or appropriate, will make use of a trainee solicitor. Many of our solicitors are members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and/or Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) both of which are recognised kite mark organisations for professional advisors specialising in this area, and between us we have chalked up over 120 years in practice in this field. As a Firm, we therefore have a wealth of knowledge and experience in this area of legal practice.
If you do choose to instruct us you may be assured of a professional, friendly and personal service throughout. We are proud of the fact we have a very high level of retention of existing clients and that 80% of our new clients come to us through personal recommendation from existing clients.
In order to advise you on the likely fees involved with dealing with the administration of an estate, we will need detailed information about the nature and extent of the estate, the terms of any Will, the range of beneficiaries, and any lifetime gifts or trusts that may have an impact on the estate at the date of death. As soon as we have all of this information, we will give you a proper estimate of our anticipated fees for acting in the administration of the estate.
Our fees are calculated primarily by the time spent on the estate administration based on our current hourly rates plus VAT. Our Solicitors currently charge between £140 and £250 per hour plus VAT. Please note, however that these fees may be increased to include an additional charge to reflect the nature, complexity and value of the estate in question (which we call the “responsibility component”). This is in much the same way as the time required to sell a house worth £500,000 may be exactly the same as that required to sell a house worth £2,000,000 but a conveyancing solicitor would invariably charge more for the higher value property because of the extra value and risk involved.
We generally find that the fees for carrying out the full administration of a deceased’s persons estate will lie somewhere in the region of 1% – 2% of the value of the estate plus VAT, which includes both our time spent and any responsibility component. Dealing with the full administration includes the following matters, though these are not exhaustive:
- Reviewing all of the relevant estate papers.
- Carrying out a full investigation into the value of the estate assets and any liabilities and making direct contact with the relevant institutions.
- Preparing Inheritance Tax Returns/Accounts where necessary.
- Applying for and obtaining the Grant of Probate/Administration.
- Arranging the sale (other than land), closure or transfer of estate assets once the Grant of Probate has been obtained.
- Settling any estate liabilities identified from the estate assets.
- Dealing with any income tax liability owing at the date of death, unless this is already being dealt with by the deceased’s accountant, for example.
- Dealing with any income tax liability arising during the estate administration period.
- Dealing with any capital gains tax liability arising during the estate administration period and advising on ways to mitigate this, if possible.
- Setting up any trusts created by the Will
- Overseeing distribution of estate assets.
- Preparing final, detailed Estate Accounts for the residuary beneficiaries of the estate.
Please note that a deceased person’s estate consists of their half share of any jointly-owned assets plus the assets which they own solely, for example ISAs etc., but this does not normally include pension funds which are generally outside of the estate.
In our experience, there is no such thing as a “typical estate”. However, in Welwyn Hatfield, an average house is worth approximately £400,000. By way of example, assume a married couple have a house valued at £400,000 and each has individual investments of £100,000 and each has a pension fund of £250,000. They make simple mirror Wills leaving everything to each other on the first death and one of them dies. The estate of the deceased consists of their half share of the house and their other assets which means that their estate is £300,000 in that example. In a scenario like that, we would expect our fees for dealing with the administration of the estate to be towards the lower end of the range referred to above, i.e. somewhere in the region of £3,000 plus VAT in order to deal with the full administration of the estate.
Our fees can be lower than 1% (particularly if we are dealing with a higher value estate where there may be economies of scale), but will rarely exceed 2% of the value of the estate unless the matter is particularly complicated or time-consuming or is subject to a dispute or claim; if we are dealing with a very low value estate (as we are sometimes asked to do) the charges may be proportionately higher because there is a minimum amount of time needed to deal with the administration of an estate, however simple.
The factors that will influence our fees for administering an estate are generally speaking as follows:
Factors likely to simplify an estate administration
- There is no Inheritance Tax to pay.
- There are a limited number of beneficiaries.
- There are a limited number of assets.
- There are no assets outside the jurisdiction.
- There are no potential disputes or disagreements between the executors/beneficiaries or other potential claims.
- Certain assets are in joint names and pass automatically to the surviving joint-owner by survivorship.
- There are no lifetime gifts which need to brought into account.
- There are no lifetime trusts that need to be considered.
- There are no trusts created by the Will.
- The deceased did not benefit from any life interest trust
- There are no lifetime gifts that need to be brought into account.
- The deceased’s income tax affairs are straight forward.
- The administration income is straight forward and below the level at which a formal tax return is required.
Factors which will tend to increase the fees of administering an estate
- The estate is subject to Inheritance Tax.
- There are a substantial number of beneficiaries.
- There are assets overseas.
- There are a large number of assets and investments with various institutions.
- There is potential for disagreement/dispute between executors/beneficiaries and/or actual or potential claims against the estate.
- The deceased’s income tax affairs are complicated.
- There are lifetime gifts that need to be brought into account.
- The Will creates a trust or trusts or there is a life interest trust the deceased benefitted from
- The administration income tax situation is complicated and requires the completion of formal tax returns and registration of the estate with HMRC.
- The estate is intestate, i.e. there is no Will
- The estate includes unregistered land
The above information is intended to give you a guide to our basis of charging for dealing with the administration of an estate, but we will endeavour to give you a proper estimate based on your particular circumstances as soon as we have all of the relevant information and any written estimate that you receive from us will obviously override any generic information contained on our website.
The fees set out above include the cost of transferring land to a beneficiary, but not, for example, for a sale to a third party which is additional and will be subject to the standard charges of our residential property department. If we are instructed to vary the terms of an estate or prepare a Deed of Variation or disclaimer that will also involve additional fees for which we will provide a separate estimate.
We are likely to incur additional legal expenses (which we call disbursements) which are payable from the Estate, namely:-
- Probate Application fees – currently £155 plus £1.50 per Office Copy, though the government has announced it intends to increase these fees substantially “for Administrative purposes” for Estates over certain thresholds to as much as £6,000 for higher value Estates.
- Swear fees for swearing an Oath, currently £7 if there is a Will but no Codicil
- Certainty Search – these are not obligatory, but we do recommend them. This is a search of the national will register to check to see if there may be a later Will on the register that the executors do not know about – this protects the executor from personal liability in certain circumstances and usually costs about £108
- Trustee Act Notices – these are searches in the London Gazette and local newspaper that advertise for unknown claims against the Estate and provide statutory protection for the executors in relation to claims of which they are innocently unaware. Again they are not mandatory, but we do recommend them in all cases. The cost is usually about £200.
- Unclaimed Assets search (where necessary) – £25.
- Land Registry fees (where applicable) which will vary according to the nature of the transaction
- Incidental expenses such as bankruptcy searches to verify that the executors may safely distribute assets to the beneficiaries – £2 per person
We generally find that it takes between three to five months to obtain the Grant of Probate for a straightforward estate. For taxable estates, this is usually three to six months. Obtaining the Grant is not however the end of the process. The Grant is simply the key that unlocks the estate and enables the executors to deal with the estate assets and liabilities. We hope to conclude the administration of straightforward estates within six to twelve months, but it can of course take longer and will depend upon individual circumstances.