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Fees for Probate services

Our team has many years of collective experience in delivering high quality work in all matters relating to probate and estate administration.

‘Probate’ is the term often used to describe the legal process of applying to the Probate Registry* to obtain proof of authority to deal with a deceased person’s estate. The generic name given to the document issued by the Probate Registry is a ‘Grant of Representation’. This may be:

  • a ‘Grant of Probate’ where there is a valid Will and executors* able and willing to act;
  • a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’ where there is no valid Will and, therefore, the deceased is said to have died ‘intestate*’; or
  • a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration (with Will annexed)’ where there is a valid Will but no executors able or willing to act.

Estate administration is the process of collecting in all of the deceased’s assets such as money, property, shares, then settling all liabilities such as funeral and estate expenses, debts and any tax liabilities before distributing the balance to the beneficiaries*. Distribution is carried out either in accordance with the deceased’s Will or the Intestacy Rules*, if no valid Will exists.

Our team has particular expertise in high value and landed estates and inheritance tax matters.

We have a large team covering both our Lincoln and York offices with practitioners including Partners, Senior Associates, Associates, Solicitors, Chartered Legal Executives, Senior Paralegals, Paralegals and Trainee Solicitors who may work on your matter. Regardless of who works on your matter, they will be supervised by either David Wood or Amy Allison, both Partners and Joint Heads of the Lincoln Private Client team or James Knowles, Partner and Head of the York Private Client team.

We can help you through this difficult process and offer a number of options to assist you with probate and estate administration. These options will be tailored to your own requirements.

In respect of probate matters where all property and assets of the deceased are within the United Kingdom and the matter is not disputed or contested, we set out below details of:

(i) the key stages that are, or might be, involved and which we can assist you with;

(ii) an indication of how long each type of application might take;

(iii) an indication of who will undertake the work and our potential legal fees; and

(iv) an indication of the potential costs of disbursements*. 

1 Grant of Representation application

If you are able to provide the full details of the estate assets and liabilities with date of death valuations, we can prepare and submit the probate application on your behalf. We then provide you with the appropriate Grant of Representation to enable you to undertake the administration of the estate yourself.

As part of our fee we will:

  • Provide you with a dedicated probate practitioner to work on your matter
  • Identify the legally appointed executors or administrators and beneficiaries
  • Accurately identify the type of probate application you will require
  • Obtain from you the relevant documents and details of the estate assets and liabilities required to make the application
  • Complete the relevant HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) forms
  • Draft a legal oath for you to swear
  • Make the application to the Probate Registry on your behalf
  • Obtain the Grant and send the sealed copies to you for you to use to collect and distribute all assets in the estate

The fee estimate below is for estates where:

  • There is a valid Will
  • There is no more than one property
  • There are no more than three bank or building society accounts
  • There are no intangible assets*
  • There are no shares or other investments
  • There are no business or farm interests
  • There is no claim for the residence nil rate band* or the transferable residence nil rate band*
  • There is no inheritance tax payable and the executors do not need to submit a full account to HMRC*
  • There are no Caveats* entered at the Probate Registry

Usually, these cases would be dealt with by one of our paralegals, senior paralegals, chartered legal executives or solicitors whose hourly rates typically range between £90 plus VAT and £175 plus VAT. We usually charge between £600 and £1,000 plus VAT (£720 and £1,200 incl. VAT) depending on the circumstances.

Typically, obtaining the Grant of Representation takes four to six weeks provided you are able to provide all of the relevant information at the outset.

Disbursements* – see the list below for likely disbursements in addition to the legal fees.

Potential additional costs  – see the list below for issues which are likely to increase the costs.

2 Grant of Representation application and estate administration – no inheritance tax payable and full HMRC account not required

We can obtain details of the estate assets and liabilities with valuations on your behalf. We can then prepare and submit the application to the Probate Registry together with the relevant forms for HMRC. Once the Grant has been received, we will collect in and distribute the estate assets to the beneficiaries after settling any liabilities. We will handle the full process for you.

As a guide, we have set out below an estimated range of fees for estates where:

  • The gross value of the estate is £400,000
  • There is a valid Will
  • There is no more than one property
  • There are no more than three bank or building society accounts
  • There are no intangible assets
  • There are no business or farm interests
  • There is no claim for the residence nil rate band or the transferable residence nil rate band
  • There are between one to four beneficiaries
  • There is no inheritance tax payable and the executors do not need to submit a full account to HMRC
  • There are no disputes between beneficiaries on division of assets
  • There are no claims made against the estate

Usually, these cases would be dealt with by one of our senior paralegals, chartered legal executives, solicitors or associates whose hourly rates typically range between £140 and £190 plus VAT. They may be assisted by one of our paralegals or trainee solicitors whose hourly rates typically range between £90 and £110 plus VAT.

We anticipate that a matter such as the above would take on average between 20 and 40 hours work at an average hourly rate of £165 per hour plus VAT. On this basis, we would estimate total legal fees of between £3,300 and £6,600 (plus VAT). Including VAT, this range would be £3,960 to £7,920. Any changes to the circumstances mentioned above may increase or decrease the fees accordingly. The exact cost will depend on the individual circumstances of the matter. For example, if there is one beneficiary and no property, costs will be at the lower end of this estimated range. If there are multiple beneficiaries, a property and multiple bank accounts, costs will be at the higher end.

On average, estates that fall within this range are dealt with within three to six months. Breaking this down further, obtaining the Grant of Probate takes, typically, four to eight weeks. Collecting assets then follows, which can take between four to six weeks. Once this has been done, we can distribute the assets, which normally takes two to four weeks.

Disbursements – see the list below for likely disbursements in addition to the legal fees.

Potential additional costs – see the list below for issues which are likely to increase the costs.

 3 Grant of Representation application and estate administration – full HMRC account required

We can obtain the details of the estate assets and liabilities with valuations on your behalf. We can then prepare and submit the application to the Probate Registry together with the full Inheritance Tax Account (including non taxable estates where the full account is required) and pay any inheritance tax due to HMRC. (Further details about inheritance tax can be found at https://www.gov.uk/inheritance-tax.) Once the Grant has been received, we will collect in and distribute the estate assets to the beneficiaries after settling any liabilities. We will handle the full process for you.

As a guide, we have set out below an estimated range of fees for estates where:

  • The gross value of the estate is £800,000
  • There is a valid Will
  • There is no more than one property
  • There are no more than five bank or building society accounts
  • There are no intangible assets
  • There are no business or farm interests
  • There is no claim for the residence nil rate band or the transferable residence nil rate band
  • There are between one to five beneficiaries
  • There are no disputes between beneficiaries on division of assets
  • There are no claims made against the estate

Usually, these cases would be dealt with by one of our senior paralegals, chartered legal executives, solicitors, associates or senior associates whose hourly rates typically range between £140 and £205 plus VAT. They may be assisted by one of our paralegals or trainee solicitors whose hourly rates typically range between £90 and £110 plus VAT. There may be certain issues that arise during the matter which require the assistance of one of our partners whose hourly rates range between £220 and £280 plus VAT.

We anticipate that a matter such as the one set out immediately above may take between 25 and 45 hours work at an average of £175 per hour plus VAT. On this basis, total costs are estimated at £4,375 to £7,875 (plus VAT). Including VAT, this range would be between £5,250 and £9,450. Any changes to the circumstances mentioned above may increase or decrease the fees accordingly. The exact cost will depend on the individual circumstances of the matter. For example, if there is one beneficiary and no property, costs will be at the lower end of the range. If there are multiple beneficiaries, a property and multiple bank accounts, costs will be at the higher end.

On average, estates that fall within this range are dealt with within three to six months. Breaking this down further, obtaining the Grant of Probate takes, typically, six to ten weeks. Collecting assets then follows, which can take between four to six weeks. Once this has been done, we can distribute the assets, which normally takes two to four weeks.

Disbursements – see the list below for likely disbursements in addition to the legal fees.

Potential additional costs – see the list below for issues which are likely to increase the costs.

Costs and fees which are not included in the estimated ranges above:

There are a number of costs and fees which might be incurred during the administration of an estate which are not included in the estimated ranges above. Whether these additional costs will be incurred will depend on the circumstances and value of the assets and estate.

Some of the more common costs and fees which are not included are set out below:

  • Fees paid to third party valuers relating to property and land, personal belongings, vehicles, shares, business or farming interests etc.
  • Property clearance and costs of selling contents and personal belongings
  • Legal fees for sale or transfer of property and land and any agents fees and HM Land Registry fees on transfer
  • Any taxes payable including Inheritance Tax, Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax etc
  • Any insurance required during the estate administration 
  • Any outstanding debts and liabilities of the deceased and funeral and wake expenses

Likely disbursements

We handle the payment of the disbursements on your behalf to ensure a smoother process. These fees are usually requested on account (i.e. before there is any requirement to pay them).

  • Probate application fee which is currently £155 (plus 50 pence per additional sealed copy of the Grant required) N.B. Changes to the Probate application fee are being introduced in April 2019 which will lead to an increase in the application fees for all estates worth more than £50,000. The revised application fees will be added to this section in due course.
  • £5 Swearing of the oath (per personal representative*) and an additional £2 per personal representative for each document annexed to the oath such as a Will and Codicils*; a swearing of an oath with a valid Will would therefore be £7 per personal representative. N.B. Changes to the application process are currently being implemented which may change this fee. An update will be added to this section when further information is available.
  • Bankruptcy-only Land Charges Department searches £2 per beneficiary.
  • £83.40 (inc VAT) Post in The London Gazette – Protects against unexpected claims from unknown creditors; this fee may vary if the advert is placed through a different agency
  • £85 to £220 (inc VAT) Post in a local newspaper – This also helps to protect against unexpected claims; fees for each newspaper or through other agencies will vary and could be substantially higher than this range; a quote for approval will be obtained before the placing of any adverts
  • £114 (inc VAT) Certainty Will search* to ensure the latest Will is proved* at the Probate Registry
  • £3 to £6 (plus VAT) if a single property is registered with HM Land Registry and the Office Copies of the Title Register and / or Plan are required

Potential additional costs to the estimated ranges set out at 1 to 3 above:

In any estate there are a large number of situations which may arise which would lead to an increase in the estimated fees provided. Some of the more common reasons that fees may increase are set out below:

  • If there is no Will,  (which can also cause delay as there will be a need to search for a valid Will and to identify the Administrators entitled to deal with the estate)
  • If the estate consists of any shareholdings (stocks, shares and bonds), as there is likely to be  a need to obtain share valuations and effect the transfer or sale; the additional costs could range significantly depending on the estate and how it is to be dealt with)
  • If the estate involves any digital assets* or other assets where there may be issues with obtaining passwords or otherwise accessing the relevant information
  • Dealing with the sale or transfer of any land or property in the estate (which is not included in the estimated ranges above)  
  • If HMRC raises an enquiry into the Inheritance Tax Return  (which will also delay the administration of the estate)
  • If any disputes arise (such as a dispute between executors or beneficiaries)  (this will also mean that the estate is unlikely to be finalised until all disputes or claims have been resolved)
  • If a Caveat is entered at the Probate Registry which will require removal
  • If the estate includes missing beneficiaries (which can also cause delay to the administration of the estate)
  • If the estate includes historic or dormant assets which involves establishing the validity of the assets and dealing with the collection and distribution of these assets
  • If there is missing documentation (share certificates, insurance policies, marriage/birth certificates etc)
  • If there are any business assets or interests in farms which need to be taken into account then valuing, reporting and dealing with any division of assets may be necessary
  • If there were any lifetime gifts made in excess of the annual allowances then the details of the gifts will need to be established and reported on the Inheritance Tax forms
  • If the deceased had any interests in a trust
  • Claiming reliefs and exemptions from Inheritance Tax
  • Establishing and claiming the transferable nil rate band*
  • Establishing and claiming the residence nil rate band and transferable residence nil rate band (especially if downsizing of the property has occurred) 

This is not an exhaustive list of situations which may lead to an increase in costs. In all cases where additional costs are likely to arise, we will give you an accurate quote once we have the information and agree any additional fees with you.

*Glossary

Term Definition
Account to HM Revenue and Customs As part  of  the application  for a  Grant of Representation it is necessary to prepare an account for HMRC This is either a short account known as the Return of Estate Information form (IHT205) usually where there is no inheritance tax to pay and matters are generally more straightforward. In more complex matters or where Inheritance Tax is payable then a full account known as the Inheritance Tax Account (IHT400) is required.
Administrator person entitled to deal with a Deceased’s estate where there is no valid Will  or no executor able or willing to act. The Intestacy Rules (see below) set out who is entitled to act and in what order of priority in these circumstances.
Beneficiary a person or entity, such as a Charity, who is to receive assets from or an interest in an estate.
Caveat a Caveat can be filed at the Probate Registry following an application, which will prevent a Grant of Probate being issued until the Caveat is removed. Caveats are designed to prevent a probate application perhaps where there is a dispute over the validity of the Will or over the people entitled to apply for the Grant.
Certainty Will Search this performs a National Will Register search.  It also includes a REACH search which contacts solicitors closest to the deceased’s last known addresses and places they may have made their Will.  If a Will cannot be located, it places a Missing Will Notification on the Certainty Missing Will Register (accessible by solicitors only). A Certainty Will search or a REACH search is best practice to guard against the possibility of there being a Will, or a different Will, and consequent maladministration of the estate.
Codicil a legal document that amends a previously executed will. A codicil must comply with the same legal requirements and be executed in the same way as a Will. 
Digital assets a digital asset can include content, files and accounts created by you and stored online or on a computer, smartphone or tablet etc. Some examples of digital assets include virtual currency such as Bitcoins or online accounts, such as banking, stock trading, betting, social media, shopping, film subscriptions, photo and video sharing, gaming accounts, and online storage. 
Disbursements Disbursements are costs related to your matter that are payable to third parties, such as court fees.
Executor person appointed under a Will to deal with the Deceased’s estate. ‘Intestate’ - a person who dies without having made a valid Will.
Intangible assets assets that are not physical including goodwill or intellectual property rights (copyright, patents etc).
Intestacy rules the statutory rules that govern the administration and distribution of a person's estate where they have died without leaving a valid Will.
Nil band rate the statutory rules that govern the administration and distribution of a person's estate where they have died without leaving a valid Will.the statutory rules that govern the administration and distribution of a person's estate where they have died without leaving a valid Will.the threshold up to which an estate pays no inheritance tax.
Personal representative the term given to a person who has the right to deal with a deceased’s estate. If there is a Will, the personal representative is known as the Executor, and if there is no Will or executor able or willing to act, the personal representative is known as the Administrator.
Probate registry The probate offices that issue Grants of Representation are known as Probate Registries. The Principal Probate Registry is situated in Central London. There are a number of District Probate Registries and Probate Sub-Registries across England & Wales. These are administered by HM Courts & Tribunals Service, which is part of the Ministry of Justice.
Proving a Will this is the confirmation by the Probate Registry, following the application for a Grant of Representation, that the Will is valid and accepted as the last known Will of the deceased.
Residence nil rate band is the additional threshold to the nil rate band which relates solely to a residential property interest passing to specific family members.
Transferable nil rate band is the amount of unused residence nil band which can be transferred between spouses estates on death.
Transferable residence nil rate band is the amount of unused nil rate band which can be transferred between spouses estates on death.