What is probate?
Probate is the term used to describe the process of administering a person’s estate following their death.
When someone dies their assets and debts need to be valued. The value of any assets, possessions and money less any debts is called their estate. The estate must then be shared out according to the wishes of the deceased. If there is no Will, then the estate is distributed in accordance with the intestacy laws. The administration of an estate can be a time consuming and complicated process. Probate solicitors can reduce your stress and time by dealing with all formal aspects of estate administration.
Grant of probate
If there is a Will, the executors named will need to apply for a Grant of Probate, which is a legal document which confirms that the executor has the authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets. You will need to fill out an inheritance tax form and swear an oath (a written statement of truth by an executor or administrator to the court). Any Inheritance Tax must be paid to HMRC before you apply to the Probate Court for a grant. If the probate court approves your oath and is satisfied that Inheritance tax has been paid (or is not payable) it will issue a grant. There are different types of Grant depending both on the circumstances and who it is who is dealing with the estate. Our Probate Solicitors will advise on this. Once the grant has been issued by the Court you will have the authority to deal with the estate. This means that you can ask banks to release money, sell property, collect any money that is owed, settle any debts due (including outstanding taxes) and divide the estate amongst the respective beneficiaries.
At Hepburn Delaney, we charge for the time taken to administer an Estate rather than the value of an Estate. Managing the Estate of a loved one is a very personal process and every Estate is individual. To help you understand the costs involved, we have provided a guide to our Probate pricing for a simple Estate below. We tailor each case to you. If we spend less time on your matter, we will charge you less than the estimates below. For more complicated Estates where we spend more time, the cost will be more than the estimates below. We always recommend arranging a meeting with either Alison or Claire our Wills, Trust and Probate Solicitors to discuss the Estate. They can provide you with a detailed estimate of costs and is an opportunity to learn more about us. This meeting is free of charge.
There are two services we offer for Probate:
To apply and obtain a Grant. This involves:
- Obtaining date of death valuations for the assets of the Estate
- Determining any debts and liabilities of the Estate
- Filling out necessary HRMC forms
- Preparing the Oath to obtain the Grant of Probate
- We would then give the Grant to the Executor who would then deal with the administration of the Estate themselves
A full administration of the Estate which would include obtaining Grant of Probate, gathering in the assets of the Estate and distributing the Estate to the beneficiaries. This involves:
- To do all the above plus;
- Once the Grant is obtained, to then arrange for the release of funds from bank accounts, investments, premium bonds, sell shares and instruct conveyances for the sale of the property
- Once all the assets have been gathered and Hepburn Delaney hold all of the funds on client account, any debts and liabilities of the Estate will be paid, bankruptcy searches against the names of the beneficiaries.
- Final distribution of the Estate is made.
If we assume all the paperwork is provided to Hepburn Delaney and;
- There is a valid will
- There is no more than one property
- There are no more than 2 bank or building society accounts
- There are no other intangible assets
- There are 1 to 2 beneficiaries
- There are no disputes between beneficiaries on division of assets. If disputes arise this is likely to lead to an increase in costs
- There is no inheritance tax payable and the executors do not need to submit a full account to HMRC
- There are no claims made against the estate
To obtain the Grant only service, we anticipate this will take between 5 and 6 hours at £250 per hour. Total fee estimated at between £1,250 and £1,500 + VAT. This is an estimate and not a fixed fee.
For a full administration of the Estate, we anticipate this will take between 10 and 12 hours at £250 per hour. Total fee estimated between £2,500 – £3,000 + VAT to conclude the full administration of the Estate. This is an estimate and not a fixed fee.
The above scenario is the most straight forward example of Probate we can give.
However many probates are more involved. For example, the deceased may have held shares, premium bonds, investment funds, private pensions etc. We would expect to be obtaining a date of death valuation for such assets on your behalf.
We are finding that for this type of estate Grant of Probate costs are ranging between £3,500 and £5,000. For full administration costs are ranging between £7,000 and £10,000.
For estates where Hepburn Delaney find the deceased affairs are not known to others and have to investigate all the assets and liabilities ourselves then the costs will be higher. As an example, Hepburn Delaney has recently completed a Probate where our tasks not only included establishing the extent of the estate, but also registering the deceased’s death, arranging the funeral/memorial service, house clearance, auction of valuables and arranging the sale of the property. The cost to obtain grant of probate was £14,000. with the full administration concluding at £20,000.
In addition to our fees, the following Disbursements will be payable. Disbursements are costs related to your matter that are payable to third parties, such as court fees. We manage the payment of the disbursements on your behalf to ensure a smoother process.
- Probate application fee of £155 (plus 50p per extra copy)
- £7 Swearing of the oath (per executor)
- Bankruptcy-only Land Charges Department searches (£2 per beneficiary) This applies to full administration only.
- Post in The London Gazette and Local Newspaper which protects against unexpected claims from unknown creditors – £200 (varies on agent fees for each publication)
The timescales below are approximate and often depend on timely responses from HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions.
For the example we have given typically, obtaining the grant of probate takes 2-3 months.
For a full administration of the Estate can take between 6-12 months based on the example we have given. Our example includes the need for a property to be sold which depending on the market can the delay the conclusion of the administration.
Hepburn Delaney’s probate and estate administration services are undertaken by Alison Rowley and Claire Patterson.
Alison Rowley Claire Patterson
Partner | Wills & Probate Team Solicitor | Wills & Probate Team