The death of a loved one is undoubtedly an emotional and difficult time. In all but simple estates a solicitor can often ease the burden and remove the stress from the situation. In many cases a solicitor can speed up the process and add value by providing advice to mitigate any exposure to Inheritance Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax which may arise during the process. A solicitor will also have experience as to how to arrange payment of funeral costs and how to raise funds to make an initial payment of Inheritance Tax (if relevant).
At the outset it is important to mention that these guidelines are based upon an estate where the assets are solely within the UK and also where the estate is not contested.
In essence there are two types of service:
This depends upon the assets owned by the deceased at the date of death. If the deceased was the sole owner of a property (or owned a share as a tenant in common) then a Grant of Representation is essential. If the deceased person did not own a property then whether or not a Grant of Representation is necessary will depend upon what assets the deceased held. For example, some banks and building societies will not insist upon a Grant of Representation if the funds held with them are less than £10,000 and some will even release the funds held if they are less than £50,000.
In this case we would meet with you in order to inform you of the information required and we would expect you to supply all of the information to us. For those who do not live locally instructions could be taken by post, email and a Skype call to verify your identity. However, we find that a face to face meeting is often the preferred way to proceed.
Based upon the information which you supply we would prepare the application for a Grant of Representation.
This would involve the preparation of:
- A Statement of Truth Oath for Executor(s) / Administrator(s): this replaces the need to swear or affirm before an independent Solicitor/Commissioner for Oaths in order to apply for the Grant of Representation
- An Inheritance Tax Return or Inheritance Tax Account (depending upon the value and circumstances of the estate)
- To apply for a Grant of Representation with an Inheritance Tax return: £850 plus VAT
- To apply for a Grant of Representation with an Inheritance Tax return and to claim an unused Inheritance Tax Nil-Rate Band from a predeceasing spouse or civil partner: £950+VAT
- To apply for a Grant of Representation completing a full Inheritance Tax Account: likely to be a minimum of £1,500 plus VAT but much will depend upon the complexity of the estate and whether we are involved in advising as to and arranging the payment of funds to HM Revenue & Customs to fund an initial payment of Inheritance Tax
NB: In each case a Probate Registry fee will be payable which is currently £155 plus £1.50 per additional Court sealed copy required. However, this is subject to government legislative change and this fee may increase on a sliding scale from 1st of April 2019 and we shall notify any existing client if the change affects them once it has been confirmed by HM Courts and Tribunal Service.
Applying for a Grant of Representation and Administering the Estate on your behalf
In this situation we would meet with you in order to discuss the administration of the estate and to obtain from you all relevant information.
We would agree with you as to what steps we should take on your behalf and what steps you may wish to take in order to keep the legal costs down. For example, you may wish to deal with matters relating to a deceased person’s property such as the household insurance and the utility bills.
We would charge for our time based upon the hourly charging rate of the person carrying out the work. Currently our charges range from £150 per hour for a Probate Assistant to £250 per hour for a Partner. In each case VAT is added to the hourly rate at the rate applicable from time to time.
In the vast majority of cases we are able to provide an accurate assessment as to the likely costs which will be incurred. Estates vary considerably as does the work required to administer them. We will discuss your individual circumstances at the outset in order to provide a realistic cost estimate.
We charge on a time basis, however whilst we do not charge a percentage of the estate, as a guideline we often find that our costs for a larger estate (£1m +) may equate to 1 – 1.5% of the gross value of the estate. For a smaller estate (£100,000 – £300,000) typically costs may be in the region of 2% – 3% of the gross value of the estate. In addition a Probate Registry fee will be payable as detailed above.
For an accurate quote contact us to speak to one of our solicitors about your specific circumstances.
At the outset of the matter in the vast majority of cases we will be able to provide a likely timescale as to how long it will take to deal with the matter. For a simple application for a Grant of Representation this can often be dealt with within 6-8 weeks and in some cases we have dealt with them in less than 3 weeks.
The time taken to administer an estate is more difficult to gauge as much depends upon the complexity of the assets. We would expect most straightforward estates (which do not involve a property) to be administered within 4-6 months. Where a property is involved and/or there is Inheritance Tax to pay we would often anticipate that the administration could take up to 9-12 months. Some cases can be considerably more involved and take even longer. However, we should be pleased to discuss the situation with you so that you are aware from the outset.
What is not included?
Any costs estimated will not include:
- The cost of publishing Statutory Notices to Creditors (which are notices usually published in the London Gazette and a local newspaper)
- The preparation of a Deed of Variation (this is where a beneficiary may wish to vary what is left to them so as to pass it on to someone else)
- Obtaining Counsel’s Opinion if the provisions of a Will are unclear
- Conducting a recognised search to see if there is any evidence of another Will being in existence
- Involving another department of the firm as required (such as our Property Department to sell a property or our Corporate Department in order to dispose of an interest in a business or shares in a private company)
- Valuation fees from a Chartered Surveyor in order to obtain a valuation of a property or valuation fees from a stockbroker in order to obtain a valuation of shareholdings.
Who will be responsible for the work?
Our Probate team is headed by Greg Baker who has been a Partner of the firm since 2006 having been involved in Probate and the administration of estates for 40 years and having worked in the Trust & Tax department of a major UK Bank as well as an offshore bank before joining the legal profession in 1989 and qualifying as a solicitor in 1998.
In every case the person responsible for the work will be a qualified solicitor. Most of our solicitors are either Full or Associate members of The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) which is the global professional association for practitioners who specialise in family inheritance and succession planning. Additionally, some of our solicitors are members of Solicitors for the Elderly and many are members of the Law Society’s Private Client Section. As many of our solicitors are members of STEP we adhere to the STEP Code of Professional Conduct as well as the Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct.