It is not compulsory to use a solicitor for probate in England or Wales. However, it often helps ease the burden after a loved one has died, especially if you have been named as executor or if your loved one did not leave a will. It might seem like a good idea to hire a probate specialist or a lawyer. How much does a probate solicitor or accountant cost? When should you consider seeking a specialist? how to find one? Find out the answers to these questions.
When do I need a probate specialist?
It is common for a relative or friend to take on the position of executor to obtain probate themselves and save the fees of a probate specialist. A person whose specialty is probate who can be a solicitor or an accountant.
It is advisable to call in a probate professional in certain situations:
- When the value of the estate is over the Inheritance Tax threshold and the estate is still earning a regular income where there are complicated taxes due.
- The deceased died without leaving a will and the estate is therefore complicated to administer.
- The validity of the will is not guaranteed.
- The deceased had dependents that he deliberately excluded from his will, but who might want to claim their share in the estate.
- Estate involves complex arrangements, such as assets held in a trust
- The estate is bankrupt or or there are doubts it is insolvent.
- The estate includes foreign property or assets or the deceased was resident outside the UK for tax purposes.
How much does the service of a probate solicitor cost?
Some probate solicitors charge hourly rates while others charge a fee that is a percentage of the value of the estate. These fees generally represent between 1% and 5% of the value of the domain. Then add VAT. Some probate specialists charge both an hourly rate and a percentage.
You must then add the legal costs and the administrative costs.
How to find a probate solicitor?
If you decide to hire a probate specialist, it may be easier to hire the lawyer who drafted the will or who took care of keeping it.
However, you have every right to hire another lawyer or a specialist accountant.
Here is a list of things to consider when dealing with a probate specialist.
Rough estimate compared to the final invoice
Many probate specialists are reluctant to give you a “hard” estimate of their fees, preferring to give you a “rough number” instead.
You should then expect revisions to this number as the work progresses.
Consequently, the invoice will undoubtedly be higher than that initially estimated.
More and more companies are now asking you to complete a detailed survey questionnaire before accepting the assignment.
This allows them to have a more accurate picture of the work involved and to suggest fees accordingly.
As a result, the final invoice is less likely to increase over their quote.
Third party costs, disbursement costs and service extras
There are fees - called disbursement fees - that you have to pay to obtain probate, the probate application fee or getting certified copies of certain documents.
In some estates, sometimes assets, such as property, have to be sold during the administration of the estate. Assessment and transfer of ownership fees are then added to the estimate.
Remember to ask what is the amount of the outgoing charge, and also for a clear rate for these additional services.
Bank as co-executor
If the deceased has used a bank to draft their will and appointed them co-executor, they can act as professional executor and proceed with probate.
The bank then tends to charge a percentage of the estate's value for their services. In some cases, this adds up to tens of thousands of pounds in service charges.
You can ask the bank to resign from its duties as executor, with the consent of all beneficiaries. But if the bank refuses to relinquish its role, you will have to ask the court to withdraw them.