If someone dies, we can help you secure the legal right to deal with their assets, also referred as obtaining a ‘grant of probate’ or a ‘grant of letters of administration’. We can then, if you wish, arrange to collect in those assets and distribute them to beneficiaries. You can find out more about this here. We deal with a wide range of estates but specialise in international, mid- to high-value and complex probates and as such our service is highly bespoke and will be tailored to your needs and the type and location of assets and liabilities in the estate of the deceased. Often our clients are busy people and they want to rely on a City law firm to take care of the probate. This page gives an example probate matter and sets out what would be included in such a service. We routinely deal with matters very much more complicated than this example matter.
What is included
As a general rule our services in this respect include:
Direct access to a dedicated and experienced probate solicitor to work on your matter.
A review of the will (or of the application of the intestacy rules where there is no valid will) to identify those who are entitled to be executor or administrator and to identify any potential issues that may prevent or delay the grant of probate.
Identifying the type of probate application you require.
Verifying the nature and probate value of the relevant assets and liabilities required to make the application.
Making an initial computation of the inheritance tax due, including quantifying the first instalment of such tax.
Completing the relevant inheritance tax forms and submitting them to you for signature.
Assisting you as to how to finance the payment of the first instalment of inheritance tax (required to apply for the grant of probate).
Submitting the signed inheritance tax forms to HMRC.
Preparing and submitting the application to the Probate Registry for the grant.
Making the application to the Probate Registry on your behalf.
Realising assets where necessary and instructed to do so, including instructing any relevant third parties.
Advice on tracing any beneficiary named in the will.
Settling liabilities and administration expenses.
Advising on and settling inheritance tax liability in the administration period.
Preparing and obtaining the approval of the estate accounts.
Distributing the assets (or their proceeds) in accordance with the terms of the will and obtaining appropriate receipts.
What is excluded
The fees set out below would not include any further work, such as:
Any legal challenge as to the validity of the will or your entitlement to the grant of probate.
Any challenges by beneficiaries and third parties in relation to any distribution.
Liaising with lawyers or representatives as to overseas elements of the estate.
Litigation in which the estate is a claimant or defendant.
Standalone legal work involved in the sale of estate assets.
Tax advice, other than that set out above (e.g. working with an accountant in relation to income tax or capital gains tax returns).
What we charge
We charge an hourly rate for our services. The hourly rates of our solicitors vary, as do the number of hours required obtain the grant of probate. To give you an indication of our likely fees up to the issue of the grant, we set out below example fee estimates for matters of varying complexity.
Low complexity – from £5,000 to £20,000
Mid complexity – from £20,000 to £30,000
High complexity – in excess of £30,000
The following factors will increase the complexity of the matter:
Issues as to the validity of the will or a missing original will.
Complex legal issues or uncertainties arising from the terms of the will.
Complex inheritance tax or other tax issues.
Large numbers of assets to be distributed.
Large numbers of beneficiaries.
Disagreements with beneficiaries and active beneficiaries.
Where you have appointed us as your executor.
Foreign wills, assets and liabilities.
The need for an unusually large number of face-to-face meetings with you, with others or visits to a property.
High-value assets in the estate such as properties, investments and other items.
Complicated liabilities of the estate.
Protracted discussions with HMRC and the District Valuer.
If there is no will or the estate consists of any shareholdings (stocks and bonds), there is likely to be additional costs that could range significantly depending on the estate and how it is to be dealt with. We can give you a more accurate quote once we have more information.
In addition to our fees, you will need to budget for the following:
Probate Registry application fees (As set out here)
Bankruptcy searches (£10.99 per person per search)
HMLR Office Copy entries (£3 per entry per search)
Advertising in the Gazette (section 27 Trustee Act notice £70)
Advertising in a local newspaper (fees vary from £50 to 500, per notice, depending on the paper)
We would usually discuss these additional third-party costs and services (known as disbursements) with you in advance and incur those costs on your behalf when necessary. You are responsible for these costs, though we would usually handle their payment for you to ensure a smoother process and add these costs to your invoice.
The issue of the grant in a low complexity matter usually takes between three and twelve months from receipt of instructions from you. Once this has been done, and where we are so instructed, then we can move to administer the estate and distribute the assets, which normally takes a further six to eighteen months, depending on the nature of the assets and liabilities. In some cases it can take much longer. You should note that timing can be dependent on the response times of HMRC and, where assets are to be sold, the time it takes to complete such sales.