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Thank you for looking at our Probate and Estate Administration services. Coping with the death of a loved one can bring a mixture of emotions and the legal side of dealing with a person’s death can often be overwhelming and confusing. Having compassionate, experienced legal advice can make this difficult situation much easier on you and your loved ones.
If the deceased person did not leave a Will, had substantial wealth and property, or had foreign property or a business, the burden of dealing with their estate can increase. Where there is a Will the Executors may need to apply for a Grant of Probate which will confirm their legal authority to deal with the estate. Where there is no Will, the Will is invalid, or it does not appoint an Executor, an Administrator will need to be appointed. This is someone who is entitled by law, to deal with the estate, and apply for a Grant. We can advise upon who may be entitled to apply for a Grant if an Administrator needs to be appointed.
At BakerLaw, our Private Client team is headed up by Amy Nelson, who qualified as a Chartered Legal Executive in 2008.
We have an experienced team who can assist you with every aspect of the Probate process, reducing the administrative burden of Estate Administration, and providing you with advice on key decisions which need to be made when managing an estate. We are aware that administering an estate comes at a time of grief and high emotion, and that most people do not know the processes and legal requirements involved. At BakerLaw we are here to help, and understand the administrative and emotional burden of dealing with someone's estate and so always aim to guide our clients as sensitively as we can.
We will give you a clear time frame of how long the Probate and Estate Administration process should take and will keep you and any beneficiaries advised throughout the process.
You will have the confidence that you are our priority, with our aim being that there is always a member of the team available to speak with you if you need some clarity or certainty, at any stage in the process. We feel this provides reassurance and gives you an outlet for any concerns that you might have. Fees are generally paid out of the estate, so there is usually no need for you to personally fund the administration. We will of course advise upon how fees will be paid, at the outset of your matter.
We are proud to hold Lexcel accreditation from the Law Society. This involves the firm undergoing a rigorous audit process which ensures we maintain high levels of client care.
Procedure and costs re Probate and the Administration of Estates
We advise you to telephone us to discuss your requirements, as we will deal with the cost of each estate on an individual basis. Our fees will be dependant upon the complexity of the estate, whether there is a Will, and any other relevant aspects which can affect the amount of work required. The information that follows is by way of general guidance.
What is a Grant?
It is usually necessary to obtain a Grant of Probate of a Will or a Grant of Letters of Administration where there is no Will (an intestacy) in order for the Personal Representatives (Executors of the Will, or the Administrators of an intestate estate) to be able to deal with significant assets such as the sale or transfer of a property, the sale or transfer of shares and the closure of bank accounts containing large balances. The Grant is confirmation by the court of the Personal Representatives' authority to deal with the assets and the estate.
Application procedure for a Grant
Either a Probate Application or a Probate Application and IHT400 (Inheritance Tax account) will need to be completed in order to apply for the Grant.
Probate Application only
Broadly speaking, where there is no Inheritance Tax (IHT) payable (i.e. because the estate falls under certain thresholds) then it is usually not necessary to file the long HMRC form IHT400 before applying to the Probate Registry for the Grant. Instead the Probate Application alone can be completed and submitted to the Probate Registry.
HMRC Form IHT400 Inheritance Tax Account
If IHT is payable or the estate is over £3,000,000 or if the estate is classed as complex (according to HMRC's criteria), a full IHT400 will need to be submitted to HMRC and any initial IHT which has fallen due will need to be paid before the application can be made to the Probate Registry for a Grant. The IHT400 requires much more detailed information than the details contained in the Probate Application alone, and a separate supplementary schedule relating to each type of asset (for example bank accounts, property, shares, personal belongings, joint assets, trust assets, business assets, lifetime gifts etc.) needs to be completed. Copies of supporting documents to evidence the details submitted in the IHT400 will also need to be supplied to HMRC.
The fees involved in a Probate matter can vary and this will depend upon the individual circumstances.
We offer both fixed fees and an hourly charging rate, whereby you will be charged on a time-spent basis for the work carried out.
Our Probate Services:
Where the Personal Representatives are able to provide us with all necessary information in respect of the assets and liabilities of the estate we can assist by 1) preparing a calculation of IHT and advising whether any is payable, 2) preparing the application for Grant of Probate and 3) submitting the papers to HMRC and/or the Probate Registry on your behalf.
Our fees for a Grant-only service will be calculated on a fixed fee basis.
The fee includes considering the figures and details provide by the Personal Representatives, preparing and finalising the IHT calculation and application papers, as well as written and telephone correspondence with the Personal Representatives . Our usual charges for the Grant-only service are made on the basis that we would not be contacting banks, investment managers or other asset providers to obtain valuations ourselves. These would be established and provided by the Personal Representatives. In addition, we would not be providing any other legal advice relating to the further administration of the estate, or the Personal Representatives' duties, responsibilities or exposure to liability. We would not undertake any other work on behalf of the Personal Representatives prior to obtaining the Grant or after the Grant is issued.
However, we would be happy to undertake additional work at the specific request of the Personal Representatives, in which case we would provide the Personal Representatives with a separate estimate for those services (usually charged on a time-spent basis at an hourly charge rate).
The examples below of our Grant-only service are fixed fees.
Where we can proceed on the basis of a Grant Application only (ie there is no IHT to pay and it is a non-complex), our fees for a Grant-only service, for a straightforward matter are fixed at £1,500 plus VAT and disbursements.
Where an IHT400 is required and/or IHT is payable, our fee for the Grant-only service is fixed at £2,500 plus VAT and disbursements, assuming everything proceeds in a straightforward manner and that all the IHT which has fallen due at the date of applying for the Grant would be paid under the Direct Payment Scheme on the basis of an IHT423 sent by us to the deceased’s bank and/or investment manager.
How long will it take to get a Grant?*
If it is a simple, relatively small estate, involving a Grant Application only, we should be able to obtain the Grant within 18 to 24 weeks of receiving all the details and estate values from you. We will submit the application to the Probate Registry for you and the Grant is usually issued within 16 weeks of the Probate Registry receiving the application if there are no complications.
It is likely to take longer to obtain the Grant in an estate where an IHT400 is required. The IHT400 must be sent to HMRC, any initial IHT must be paid, and HMRC must confirm receipt of the IHT400 and tax payment, before the Grant application can be submitted. We cannot apply for the Grant until we have HMRC’s formal receipt (IHT421). HMRC has operated with considerable delays in the past in sending out the IHT421 but is now committed to sending the IHT421 within 25 working days of receiving the IHT400 and the payment of any initial tax payable. We are usually able to obtain the Grant within two to three months of receiving all the information from you, provided matters are relatively straight forward, there is no problem raising any initial inheritance tax from the deceased’s assets (if you need to arrange an executor’s loan this can delay matters) and HMRC sends out the receipted IHT421 relatively quickly.
*Please note that due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, there are considerable delays at the Probate Registry and HMRC which are out of our control.
Dealing with the whole estate
We offer a service to deal with the whole estate i.e. ensuring every stage of the probate process is completed and all the Executor’s duties have been fulfilled. If we are instructed to deal with the whole estate we deal with all matters from the date of death to conclusion of the estate administration.
- Write to the various third parties to establish a) the value of the estate and b) their requirements.
- Forward the funeral directors’ invoice to the bank for settlement.
- Instruct and liaise a Chartered Surveyor to produce a professional property valuation.
- Instruct and liaise with three estate agents to produce market valuations of the property.
- Arrange for the contents of the property to be valued.
- When the value of the estate is known, we will draft the necessary HMRC forms and Oath for approval.
- When the Grant of Probate is received, we will continue with the administration of the estate and arrange for the assets to be encashed or transferred, as appropriate.
- We will instruct and liaise with our Conveyancing Department to register the property/land in your sole name.
- We will instruct and liaise with our Conveyancing department to sell the property in due course.
- We will arrange for payment of interim distributions from the closing bank balance, if necessary.
- We will place the statutory notices.
- We will arrange a Lost and Dormant Asset Search.
- As part of the administration of the estate it is necessary to formalise the tax position of the estate for both the tax year to the date of death and also the administration period. HMRC will also advise whether they have any other outstanding taxes to be dealt with. Depending on the complexity of the affairs either we will prepare and submit the necessary tax returns, or we will instruct an accountant. If it is necessary to instruct an accountant, we will seek your instructions and ask if you have specific firm you would like us to instruct.
- We will arrange the payment of liabilities and reimbursement of any expenses incurred.
- We will produce estate accounts for the residuary beneficiaries’ approval. The accounts will include details of all capital adjustments, income received and the final distribution calculations.
- Once HMRC have issued us with tax clearance, and the statutory two months’ notice period for the s27 Trustee Act notices has expired, we will make the final distribution to you.
- Arrange the transfer/sale of any property or priorities (additional conveyancing costs apply)
The above list is not exhaustive and the steps may not be required in every estate.
Our costs are based on an hourly charge of between £250 to £280 plus VAT (depending on the level of experience of the person dealing with the matter) and are calculated on the time spent on attendances, preparation, consideration and all forms of communication, i.e. letters, emails and telephone calls, whether made or received.
It is difficult to know the amount of time to be spent on matters as this will depend on the issues that arise, however an approximate cost on an average estate would be in the region of 25 to 60 hours. An average estate would include dealing with five asset providers, one property, utility providers, beneficiaries named in the Will, HMRC and DWP.
Fees based on the above average estate can therefore range between £5,250 and £16,800 plus VAT depending on the complexity of the estate, number of assets and seniority of the person you instruct.
Disbursements (For All Options)
Disbursements are costs related to your matter that are payable to third parties, such as Land Registry fees or court fees. We handle the payment of the disbursements on your behalf to ensure a smoother process.
Office Copies for the Grant of Probate (per cop)
Land Registry Search fee – Office Copy Entries
Foreign Bankruptcy Search fee (per beneficiary)
S27 Trustee Act Notices (approx)
Electronic ID check (per client)
Financial Asset Report
Will Search (basic search)
There are various factors that will affect any Inheritance Tax due on an estate, including the size of the estate and any measures that were put in place by the deceased to limit the estates tax liability.
We do not believe that it would be sensible to attempt to provide at this stage an estimate of any tax that may be payable. We would advise you to look on the HMRC website to calculate Inheritance Tax which may be due, the calculators can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/hmrc-tools-and-calculators#inheritance-tax-and-bereavement
In the event that there is no Will or the estate consists of any share holdings (Stocks and Bonds), there is likely to be an additional cost that could range significantly depending on the estate and how it is to be handled. We will discuss this with you in detail and advise of any additional fees.
In the event that additional copies of the Grant of Probate are required, these will be charged at £1.50 per copy or per asset.
The cost of selling or transferring a property is not included in this price, if you require this service, please let us know and we will provide you with an estimate in that regard.
Our fees are fixed and include items detailed above, however there may be factors which would typically increase the cost of the fees involved. Where there is likely to be any additional cost, we will make sure you are informed of this at the earliest opportunity and a clear estimate of those extra costs will be provided.
Additional services that will require the assistance of a third party at additional cost include:
- Tax advice
- Valuations for property, savings, investments or other assets
On average, probate for the typical estate will take between 9 – 24 months. Generally, the time taken to obtain the Grant of Probate will take between 3 - 6 months, followed by the collection of assets and distribution of the estate which can take between 6 - 18 months. This range takes into account handling everything from a straightforward estate through to more complex estates.
With every transaction there are key milestones, which may vary according to individual circumstances. They may be as follows:
- Applying for Grant of Probate
- Obtaining Grant of Probate
- Settling Liabilities
- Collecting funds ready for distribution
- Producing Estate accounts
- Distributing funds