How much solicitors charge for probate can vary hugely depending on the complexity, size and value of the estate. A probate solicitor may work on an hourly rate, a percentage of the estate or, for relatively simple estates, offer fixed fee probate.
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In some very simple cases of probate, it may be possible for the personal representative (the executor of the will) or the administrator (in the event that there is no will) to complete much of the probate process without legal help. However, not everyone chooses the DIY probate approach as some people find it overwhelming to deal with the personal financial affairs of a loved one and there are risks with being an executor or administrator. If mistakes are made they can cost more to resolve in the long term and executors and administrators can be held personally liable.
Reasons for getting legal help with probate include:
- If the value of the estate is over the inheritance tax threshold (£325,000).
- There are doubts about the validity of the will, or disputes between beneficiaries.
- Part of the estate is being left to children or grandchildren.
- The will is particularly complicated, or even bankrupt.
- The estate is generating an income.
There are many reasons why it’s advisable to contact a probate solicitor to get sound advice from the outset and a good place to start is a solicitor that offers some free probate advice.
Solicitors charge for probate at different stages
At its most basic, the legal work associated with probate can be divided into two stages:
Work pre-grant of probate – This involves ascertaining the extent of the estate, making an application to HMRC and applying to the probate registry for probate.
Work post-grant – Dealing with the liquidation or the sale and the transfer/distribution of assets, as well as finalising the estate accounts.
Different costs will apply at each stage of the probate process. These include making an application for probate, estate administration and calculating any taxes due. As a result, work carried out by a solicitor may fall into three main categories:
- Full administration.
- Obtaining grant of probate
- Or obtaining grant of probate, along with additional work
Carrying out full administration of the estate will be the most costly, as this involves every aspect of the probate process, from assessing the assets and liabilities of the estate and preparing and paying tax, to transferring and distributing assets, as well as preparing the final estate accounts.
If the firm of solicitors acts as executors to estate administration, this will impact the amount of the fee payable. In many cases, if the estate is substantial, for instance more than £250,000, a percentage fee may be the most cost-efficient way of payment. Typically, the fee is calculated at between 1% and 5% of the value of the estate, plus VAT.
A small value estate is more likely to be paid on a fixed fee probate basis. The exact cost will depend on the individual circumstances. Charges are typically settled from estate funds and not by the executor personally. Of course, there may be additional fees associated with conveyancing, accounting, the services of a genealogist, and, of course, the government probate fee. The overall cost of probate, costs in addition to solicitors fees are looked at in this article: Probate Costs – fees and associated costs.
All solicitors costs are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and, by law, must be ‘fair and reasonable’.
As mentioned, some probate costs must be paid to third parties. Depending on the complexity, these include:
And, as with most professional services, factor in VAT as this can make up a significant part of the overall costs.
Obtaining grant of probate
If you wish to deal with the estate administration yourself, normally the solicitor will give a fixed fee to handle the application for the grant of probate on your behalf. Here, as administrator, you would need to carry out the initial enquiries to obtain the financial information required. Currently, the fixed application fee for probate in England and Wales is £273 if the value of the estate is £5,000 or over . There is no fee if it is under £5,000.
Get the right advice for your needs
Dealing probate is can be a complicated process, which is why it’s so important to get the right advice. If you are curious about the cost of professional advice, use the quick form below to request a probate quote.