If someone dies, our Probate & Estate Planning Team can help you secure the legal right to deal with their assets, also referred as obtaining a ‘grant of probate’ or a ‘grant of letters of administration’. We can then, if you wish, arrange to collect in those assets and distribute them to beneficiaries. You can find out more about this by clicking here. We deal with a wide range of estates but specialise in international, mid- to high-value and complex probates and as such our service is highly bespoke and will be tailored to your needs and the type and location of assets and liabilities in the estate of the deceased.
All work is supervised by a senior lawyer, who may be a Partner, Consultant Solicitor or Consultant Barrister. At the beginning of your matter we will tell you who will be working for you and who to contact should you have any concerns with our service. We will also explain the scope of our services.
Often our clients are busy people and they want to rely on a City law firm to take care of the probate. This page gives an example probate matter and sets out what would be included in such a service. We routinely deal with matters very much more complicated than this example matter.
What is included
The key stages of a probate matter include:
- An initial one-to-one conversation with one of our experienced probate solicitors who will work on your matter.
- A review of the will (or of the application of the intestacy rules where there is no valid will) to identify those who are entitled to be executor or administrator and to identify any potential issues that may prevent or delay the grant of probate.
- Identifying the type of probate application you require.
- Verifying the nature and probate value of the relevant assets and liabilities required to make the application.
- Making an initial computation of the inheritance tax due, including quantifying the first instalment of such tax.
- Completing the relevant inheritance tax forms and submitting them to you for signature.
- Assisting you as to how to finance the payment of the first instalment of inheritance tax (required to apply for the grant of probate).
- Submitting the signed inheritance tax forms to HMRC.
- Preparing and submitting the application to the Probate Registry for the grant.
- Making the application to the Probate Registry on your behalf.
- Realising assets where necessary and instructed to do so, including instructing any relevant third parties.
- Advice on tracing any beneficiary named in the will.
- Settling liabilities and administration expenses.
- Advising on and settling inheritance tax liability in the administration period.
- Preparing and obtaining the approval of the estate accounts.
- Distributing the assets (or their proceeds) in accordance with the terms of the will and obtaining appropriate receipts.
What is excluded
The fees set out below would not include any further work, such as:
- Any legal challenge as to the validity of the will or your entitlement to the grant of probate.
- Any challenges by beneficiaries and third parties in relation to any distribution.
- Liaising with lawyers or representatives as to overseas elements of the estate.
- Litigation in which the estate is a claimant or defendant.
- Standalone legal work involved in the sale of estate assets.
- Tax advice, other than that set out above (e.g. working with an accountant in relation to income tax or capital gains tax returns).
What we charge
Our Partners and Consultant Solicitors/Barristers charge hourly rates from £480 to £1,100. Our Associates, Legal Executives and Licensing Coordinators charge hourly rates from £190 to £450. Our Trainee Solicitors, Paralegals and Legal Assistants charge hourly rates from £70 to £350. All rates depend on the seniority of the individual and the practice area. In some limited cases and on request, we may offer to work on a fixed-fee, contingency or damages-based basis. In these exceptional cases, fees are discussed and agreed before we start work.
We offer a bespoke service and each matter is unique. We can only estimate the likely costs of our probate services once we have discussed the matter with you and seen the papers. However, we can provide an indication of our likely fees associated with work of varying complexity as set out above under the heading “What is included”.
- Low complexity – from £6,000 to £20,000
- Mid complexity – from £20,000 to £30,000
- High complexity – in excess of £30,000
The following factors will increase the complexity of the matter:
- Issues as to the validity of the will or a missing original will.
- Complex legal issues or uncertainties arising from the terms of the will.
- High-value estates.
- Complex inheritance tax or other tax issues.
- Large numbers of assets to be distributed.
- Large numbers of beneficiaries.
- Disagreements with beneficiaries and active beneficiaries.
- Where you have appointed us as your executor.
- Foreign wills, assets and liabilities.
- The need for an unusually large number of face-to-face meetings with you, with others or visits to a property.
- High-value assets in the estate such as properties, investments and other items.
- Complicated liabilities of the estate.
- Protracted discussions with HMRC and the District Valuer.
- If there is no will or the estate consists of any shareholdings (stocks and bonds), there is likely to be additional costs that could range significantly depending on the estate and how it is to be dealt with. We can give you a more accurate quote once we have more information.
In addition to our fees, you will need to budget for the following:
- Valuation fees for assets of the estate (£60 (for a small item) to £15,000 (for a substantial asset))
- Probate Registry application fees (as set out here)
- Bankruptcy searches (£10.99 per person per search)
- HMLR Office Copy entries (£3 per entry per search)
- Advertising in the Gazette (section 27 Trustee Act notice £70)
- Advertising in a newspaper (fees vary from £60 to £600, per notice, depending on the paper)
- Inheritance Tax (for further details see here)
We would usually discuss these additional third-party costs and services (known as disbursements) with you in advance and incur those costs on your behalf when necessary. You are responsible for these costs, though we would usually handle their payment for you to ensure a smoother process and add these costs to your invoice.
Rates and VAT
Where VAT applies, then we add this to our charges at the prevailing rate. The figures quoted above all include VAT at 20%. Most disbursements attract VAT at the prevailing rate. This will be added to the bills we receive. We pass the total cost on to you. We do not add VAT on to disbursements where VAT has already been added by the relevant third party. Certain disbursements, such as official fees, are not subject to VAT. Where our services are not a vatable supply, then we do not charge VAT and the quote above is reduced by 20%.
How long it will take
The issue of the grant in a low-complexity matter usually takes between three and twelve months from receipt of instructions from you. Once this has been done, and where we are so instructed, then we can move to administer the estate and distribute the assets, which normally takes a further six to eighteen months, depending on the nature of the assets and liabilities. In some cases, it can take much longer. You should note that timing can be dependent on the response times of HMRC and, where assets are to be sold, the time it takes to complete such sales.