Probate Fees and Executors – Know Your Rights and What To Expect !

7 Jun

I feel there is a need to write this article as I have recently been involved in an estate, where the fees charged are wholly not reflective of the work carried out by, in this case, a local solicitor – we will call the “professional” in question Warrell Card to give the person a name. (This is not their name and in actual fact, the in question which has inspired this article is actually female. So, any similarity to any known person alive, dead and some alternative is simply coincidence and nothing more.)

Please do not be afraid or concerned getting legal advice, if selected as executor, and in most cases the work done and the fees charged are fine. I have had dealings with many solicitors over many years where their involvement was appreciated. As with all of these situations, in most cases the solicitors provide an excellent service for a fair price but as always there are a few exceptions.

Also, to all those who think it may be  better to seek the services of a Will Writer, in my opinion, don’t. I personally believe that the role of Will Writing should be carried out by a suitably qualified solicitor. My experience has been poor where Will Writers have been involved.

As for applying for Probate – worse so – yes, you can do this yourself but depending on your wish to complete the process personally or delegate the responsibility, your financial aptitude and the complexity of the estate….

Just take care and remember, you are the executor so you are “in control” – you are employing others to complete a job – so take care and make sure you are happy with the work and price for what is being done and has been done. If you were re-turfing your lawn you would ask how much and what is being done. This is the same – you are paying for a job to be done – start to finish.

Probate Solicitors Fees

Probate is the process of obtaining the official approval of a last will and testament. What is Probate? This is the process of administration of your Will when you die. It’s a detailed process and solicitors charges can be substantial.

You can avoid the probate fees that solicitors charge by gaining probate yourself. However many people find bereavement a stressful time, and some would rather not learn the intricacies of administering the estate when they are feeling the loss of someone close to them. Most choose to employ a probate solicitor or other professional. Please make sure that you use a solicitor specialising in Probate, otherwise you run the additional risk of higher fees through inexperience of the “professional” and the point that all activity and time will be fee charging.

A solicitor may be named in the will as an executor – in which case, they will generally administer the estate and the cost of probate will be charged according to their scale at the time.

The executor’s job is to gather in all your assets, and after paying off any debts, they obtain a ‘Grant of Probate’ on your estate. Finally they pay out the money from the estate according to the Will’s instructions.

What are the average probate fees?

Banks charge consistently higher fees than solicitors fees – and, in turn these are often undercut by will-writers. To confuse matters, some charge a percentage of an estate’s value, others charge for work done by the item or hour, and many charge for both.

Bank’s fees for probate can generally work out at between 4% and 5%, so in my opinion are generally not good value.

Solicitor’s Probate and Associated Administration fees are usually based on guidance from the Law Society which sets an initial fee of up to 0.75% of the value of the property, plus up to 1.5% of the value of other assets, and other charges on top of that. After totalling up all the costs, a large estate may work out closer to 0.75% to 1.00% – that’s say up to £10,000 on an estate of £1 million, while smaller estates could amount to a larger proportion. Average fees for probate and estate administration work hover around £2,500. But even for smaller estates, the probate fees don’t often to go below £2,000.

While these figures provide a guide, it is important to ask around and get prices. Lawyers can charge from £100 per hour to £250 per hour or more for probate work, depending on the seniority of the person on your case. If a simple estate took 10 hours it would be much cheaper than a more complex will taking 20 hours’ work – and a solicitor would have to quote depending on your circumstances. What’s more, solicitors’ probate fees in London can be prohibitively high. It’s certainly worth shopping round and checking out specialist firms or at least ensure you only deal with the specialist within the selected Law Firm.

The big variables in the level of fees are when a Will gives rise to a particular issue or where there is a mistake or an omission. The Will might be contested by disgruntled family members who feel they have a right to a share in the estate.

Sometimes beneficiaries cannot be traced – or assets cannot be found. If there is no will to be found, the deceased is regarded as dying ‘intestate’, and the Govenment’s rules on intestacy come into play. This too, can increase the costs.

How do you save on a probate solicitor’s fees?

First, get a fixed quote after your first meeting. Prepare well for any face to face meetings and have as much information and details to hand. Remember that letters take time, so ensure that correspondence is kept only to that which is essential. If you want, you can do some of the work yourself rather than leaving everything to the solicitor.

Lastly, if you are having your Will drawn up, there is no need to pre-pay for probate services at that point. Some will-making companies have been criticised for charging large sums in advance for services that may not turn out to be as useful as their advertising claims.

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