Tag Archives: Legal Services

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.

Wills Explained

23 Feb
Why it’s important to make a Will?
Making a Will and making sure it’s kept up-to-date is one of the most important actions you will ever take. A Will details who receives what assets, when and how.
It enables you to make decisions as to how you want to dispose of your possessions. This includes property, either directly or under the protective structure of a trust and for the benefit of your family, friends, carers, neighbours, etc. You can also include any organisations and/or charities you wish to financially support. Without a Will, you leave everything to the Rules of Intestacy, chance and quite possibly the taxman.
A Will ensures your wishes will be carried out. For example, you can ensure that your wife/husband receives everything you intend them to. A Will can ensure an unmarried partner inherits. It can be used to appoint a guardian for your child(ren) under 18. Children and grandchildren can be included to ensure they receive particular gifts you intend them to receive.

Including a Trust in your Will can ensure that you protect the benefit entitlement of your family member, and thereby guarantee continuity and security of care. It can also ensure that you make provision for “extras” that you want your family members to have. These can include things like maintenance, up-keep, holidays, and particular equipment to enhance someone’s quality of life.

When is it the right time to make a will?

Making your Will is best done sooner rather than later. A suitable time to make your Will is when you are well, happy and free from any pressure or influence.


How do I write a Will?

The law has strict rules as to how a Will must be written and administered. If a Will fails to meet any of the legal requirements it may be declared invalid and therefore fail.

To make a valid Will you must be over 18 and be of “sound mind”, which means you are legally capable of understanding the effects of drawing up a Will.

It is extremely important that your Will is drawn up to accurately reflect your intentions, signed and witnessed.


DIY, Will Writer or Solicitors?

You can draft a Will yourself or have a Will Writer provide this service. Personally, as a professional Independent Financial Adviser specialising in Investments and Tax Planning, I recommend you take appropriate legal advice and speak to a suitably qualified solicitor. There are several solicitors in Wales, who I can personally recommend.

Consulting with a solicitor who specialises in drawing up Wills, gives peace of mind. Contrary to opinion, fees for making general family Wills are not exorbitant and often can be fixed at a pre-agreed price.

The administration required to deal with your estate after your death also needs consideration as there will probably be some costs involved. Some solicitors will negotiate a fixed percentage fee from the estate in order to pay for the execution of the Will and deal with all matters of Probate after your death. This can be written into the Will. Remember you have a choice and do not have to agree to any ‘fixed’ costs. It’s a good idea to ask about these costs before going ahead with any Will.


What about Inheritance tax?

Inheritance Tax (IHT) is the tax payable on the estate you leave. IHT is only payable if the total value of your estate is higher than £325,000 (frozen until 2015) or £650,000 for married couples or civil partnerships. This is generally referred to as the threshold.

This total includes gifts made over the previous seven years although there are exceptions to these gifts. Exceptions, such as, those to your spouse and charities; and Chargeble Lifetime Transfers where asociated gifts in the last 14 years may need to be considered.

If your estate is less than £325,000 (or £650,000 for a married couple or civil partnership) you pay no Inheritance Tax. The tax is payable only on the amount over the threshold. The current rate is 40%.

For those who have an estate over the IHT threshold it certainly pays to think carefully about planning your estate to maximise your beneficiaries legacy.

Strategies to minimise IHT may include, changing some of the assets held to those qualifying for Inheritance Tax Relief, gifts out of the estate either directly or via Trusts, by making eligible gifts. We can discuss these options on a personal basis. Taking specialist advice now could save your estate thousands later.


Have In Mind Your Financial and Life Plan Before Drafting Your Will

Before you begin the process of actually making your Will or seeing a solicitor it’s a useful exercise to write down answers to a few simple questions:

  • Who do I want as my executors (these are the people you appoint to carry out the terms of your Will)?
  • Who do I want to leave my estate to and in what proportions?
  • Will I leave a gift to any charities?
  • Do I need assets protected for my husband/wife, Estate Planning, Children, vulnerable persons?
  • If I become incapacitated as a result of illness or accident who do I want to look after my affairs (appointing a person who has power of attorney)?
  • What are my assets (write a list of all that you own ie: shares, property, jewellery, household items, insurance policies) and liabilities?


Jargon Busting

  • Testator: this is the person making the Will. You
  • Beneficiaries (Legatees): all those people, organisations and charities you wish to benefit under the terms of your Will.
  • Executor(s): the people you appoint to ensure that the terms of your Will are carried out.
  • Witnesses: two people who must be present when you sign your Will. They may not benefit under the terms of the Will and neither can their spouses.
  • Solicitor: professional person who meets the standards set by the Law Society and is qualified to undertake legal work including Wills and Probate. Solicitors are regulated by the Law Society.
  • Trustee(s):people you appoint to administer and manage any trust you set up.
  • Guardian: person(s) appointed under the terms of a Will to have custody of any minor child(ren).
  • Codicil: legal document adding to, or altering, an existing Will. A codicil is used where only a minor change is needed and there is no need to make a new will.
  • Court of Protection: division of the Supreme Court which exists to manage the affairs of those who are incapable of managing or administering their own financial affairs.
  • Estate: total value of all the assets you leave when you die, after all debts, taxes and costs have been paid.
  • Inheritance Tax: payable if your estate exceeds the current tax threshold (£285,000 from April 2006). It can be avoided or reduced by leaving a legacy to a charity.
  • Intestate: if you die without a Will, the law declares intestacy and decides how your assets will be distributed, regardless of your wishes.
  • Legacy: gift, or bequest in your Will.
  • Conditional: a gift conditional upon a certain event taking place.
  • Discretionary: where you allow your Executors or Trustees to choose who will benefit under your Will.
  • Pecuniary: gift of money; if it is index-linked it will help retain its value.
  • Residuary: what is left of the estate after all other legacies, tax debts and costs have been paid.
  • Reversionary: gift to someone for their lifetime and after their death to someone else, organisation or charity.
  • Specific: gift which is identified i.e. house, car, jewellery etc.