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Thank you for looking at our probate 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 sense of burden can increase. Where a Will is in existence the Executors may need to apply for the grant of probate which will give them the legal authority to deal with the estate. Where there is no Will in existence, the Will is invalid, or it does not appoint an Executor, an Administrator will need to be appointed.
Our Private Client team is headed up by Amy Nelson qualifying 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 and advising sensitively 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.
We will give you a clear time frame of how long probate should take and will keep you and any beneficiaries advised throughout.
You will have the confidence that you are our priority, with our aim being that any member of the team is available to speak with you when you need some clarity and certainty at any stage in the process. We feel this provides reassurance and gives you an outlet for any concerns that you may have. Fees are generally paid out of the estate, so there may not be a need for you to fund the administration.
We are proud to hold Lexcel issued by 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 and cost each estate on an individual basis depending on the complexity and 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 Executors of the Will or the Administrators of an intestate estate (both also known as Personal Representatives) 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 with large balances. The Grant is confirmation by the court of their authority to deal with the assets.
Application procedure for a Grant
Either an IHT205 or an IHT400 will need to be completed in conjunction with the application to the Probate Registry for the Grant.
HMRC Form IHT205 Return of Estate Information
Broadly speaking, where there is no inheritance tax payable (i.e. because the estate falls under certain thresholds) then it is usually not necessary to file the long HMRC form IHT400 with HMRC before applying to the Probate Registry for the Grant and instead the short form IHT205 can be submitted direct to the Probate Registry with the Grant application.
HMRC Form IHT400 Inheritance Tax Account
If tax is payable or the estate is over £1,000,000 or it is complex, a full IHT400 will need to be submitted to HMRC and any initial inheritance tax paid before the application can be made to the Probate Registry for a Grant. The IHT400 requires much more detailed information than an IHT205 and a separate supplementary schedule relating to each class of asset (for example bank accounts, property, shares, personal belongings, joint assets, trust assets, business assets, lifetime gifts etc.) also needs to be provided together with copy supporting documents to expand upon the information in the IHT400 itself.
The fees involved in a probate matter can vary and this will depend on the individual circumstances involved.
We offer both fixed fees and an hourly rate charging rate, whereby you will be charged for each hour of work undertaken.
Our Probate Services:
Grant only service
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 the IHT205 or IHT400, 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 meetings; considering, preparing and working on papers; correspondence and making and receiving telephone calls. Our usual fees for the Grant only assumes that we would not be contacting banks or investment managers or obtaining valuations ourselves. In addition, we would not be providing any other legal advice or be undertaking any other work on behalf of the Personal Representatives prior to obtaining the Grant or post Grant.
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 or to include those services in our initial estimate in our client care letter covering the application for the Grant (see Full Administration Service below).
The examples below of our Grant only service are fixed fees.
Where we can proceed on the basis of an IHT205, our fees for a Grant only service for a straightforward matter are fixed at £1,500 plus VAT and disbursements.
Where an IHT400 needs to be submitted to HMRC before we can apply for a Grant, but no inheritance tax is payable the cost of a Grant only service for a straight forward estate is fixed at £1,800 plus VAT and disbursements.
Where Inheritance Tax is payable our fees for Grant only service are fixed at £2,500 plus VAT and disbursements, assuming everything proceeds in a straight forward manner and that all the initial tax 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?*
Grant only service
If it is a simple relatively small estate involving an IHT205 we should be able to obtain the Grant within four to six weeks of receiving all the information we need from you. Your signed IHT205 is submitted with your signed legal statement to the Probate Registry and the Registry normally issues the Grant within 2 weeks of our 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 would need to be sent to HMRC and any initial tax paid. We cannot apply for the Grant until we have HMRC’s formal receipted IHT421. HMRC has been responsible for considerable delays in the past in sending out the IHT421 but is now committed to sending the IHT421 within 10 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 £230 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 45 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 £5,750 and £12,600 plus VAT depending on the complexity of the estate, number of accounts 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)
Anti-Money Laundering 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 £0.50 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 – 18 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 - 12 months. The range takes into account handling everything from 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