Low Cost Probate: Keeping Costs Down

Low cost Probate – how to get value for money….

And further down the page, 4 things to ask before appointing a probate professional. So just skip down and check how to keep probate costs down by understanding how many firms bulk up your bills….

Read this before you ask for anyone for professional help.

Few people are experienced at dealing with probate, the bureaucracy and traps which await the unwary executor.   You can be personally liable if things go wrong.   The Taxman can charge very substantial penalties if you don’t get the Inheritance Tax right. You will also find that the institutions quite frequently give incorrect information – and if you fail to realise it, you are still responsible.

You could also run into problems if you miss out people who should have inherited (it is quite common if you don’t know the rules – especially if there is no valid Last Will.) Or there could creditors or “dependents” you don’t find out about. Saving the estate some money could be very expensive for you if you end up having to pay compensation from your own pocket.  Our help could be invaluable.

But probably the worst part of being executor is that you are piggy in the middle, and in around half of cases, family members (and especially their partners) will think you are being slow, unfair or even cheating them.   We hear it all the time.   We are experts at defusing these sorts of situation,  getting the job done as quickly as possible and keeping the family unit from self destructing. Disputes after deaths are really common.

Did we mention we have a Tax Barrister who is often available to save significant Inheritance and sometimes Capital Gains Tax?

We strongly recommend that if there is any possibility of Inheritance Tax being due, you do contact us for professional advice.  Bear in mind that any gifts made in the previous 7 (sometimes 14) years need to be considered, as do any trusts.  Gifts where the deceased retained a benefit (a typical one is people giving their house to their children to “save” tax but carry on living in it) are also brought into account.  Another surprisingly common one is the holiday home “given” to the children – but still used.

Simple estate?

If it really is, and you have the time to deal with the bureaucrats (not the few remaining Civil servants in the Probate Registry – the banks, investment houses, councils etc etc) – go for it, you’ll save a few hundred pounds which the estate would otherwise have paid.   Just double check everything before you send off the forms!

How do we offer such low cost probate fees?  Simply because we keep our overheads really low and don’t drive posh company cars or have vastly expensive town centre offices!  Most contact is by phone and email which is cheaper and easier.

How can you save on probate fees?

Ask any other probate firm to confirm they don’t use these methods of inflating fees:

Probate Department Stephen Pett

Probate Department Stephen Pett

* Charging extra for each letter (£50 + is common per letter – typically taking 2 or 3 minutes as they are automated.)

* Charging in 6 minutes units so a 30 second phone call is charged as lasting 6 minutes and a call lasting 6 minutes 30 seconds is recorded as 2 “units” – you pay for 12 minutes. Imagine that repeated 30 or 40 times as information is chased. .

* Charging a “responsibility allowance” –  adding a percentage charge  (on top of the hourly rate) and this can more than triple the final bill – beware!

* Insisting on doing everything – we fit in with your requirements, not the other way round.

We’re happy to do the whole thing – or just give you half an hours advice, unlike most.   And we have our do it yourself option where you (in effect) get a really professional service at a tiny fraction of the cost that many solicitors or banks would charge. And for small estates it can be really fast.

Why us?  What makes us the firm you should use if you need help? Some testimonials.

Our services:

  1. Full probate service
  2. DIY Check service
  3. Terms of Business.

The Probate Department Ltd can help on matters in the Probate, Estate Planning and Trust areas.  Why not call us on 01323 406299 – a chat will cost you nothing and you will find our fees and personal service are far better than high street solicitors, banks and large institutions.  Or email us:

Where matters become unavoidably contentious, we can refer you on to another firm who specialise in contentious probate. We should also mention that a great deal of our work is in Estate Planning, trusts, asset protection etc, so we help the living plan effectively, as well as sorting out the affairs of the deceased. Our fees are typically 30 to 50% below market rates due to our low overheads and efficient systems.

Free advice and telephone advice:   free advice is limited to 5 minutes, after which the cost of telephone advice is chargeable ( we will warn you!)   Such advice can only be based on the information given and a full and considered study of the facts with paperwork may not come to the same conclusion.

Will or Intestacy Review: who is entitled to what? Very often, the family may be uncertain (or disagree) with what the entitlement of individuals is, and this can lead to massive problems.   We can often settle these matters for as little as £60 with a review of the Will or of the situation where there is an intestacy.   Simply send us a copy of the Will, your question and a cheque for £60, and a family tree where relevant.  This simple process may avoid families falling out and then each side spending thousands on arguing what is often an entirely clear situation.   If the Will is complex (and some are 3″ thick – or 7.5 cm!) or if discussions are needed then the cost will clearly be higher and normal hourly rates will apply.

Caveat – where there is a dispute: we can ask the Courts to try to force the “other side” to speak to you and try to resolve problems (before they are granted the right to deal with the estate by the Probate Registry) by what is called “entering a caveat.”  That may be enough to avoid what is called “contentious probate” – if it is not, we can introduce you to firms who handle such work at relatively modest cost, but it should be avoided if at all possible!

DIY Probate but we do the paperwork: you get all the figures and balances in, send us a list of them and we produce all the forms.  Cost depends on complexity.

Fixed Fee Probate: provided you give us an accurate list of all the assets and liabilities in the estate, we can quite a very competitive fixed fee probate service.  We will try to stick to it, but if extra work is required because problems arise or clients require additional advice or time, then we will charge for that at our normal relatively modest hourly rates. We will report back regularly, but with a fixed fee we generally only deal with one person to keep costs down.

Hourly Rates: in most cases, an hourly rate is actually the fairest way to deal with things, and is often much cheaper (especially if everyone is patient and just awaits our regular reports!)   However, often estate are more complex than they seem, and the fixed fee providers will be looking to add their hourly charge which can be double ours. Generally speaking most estates involve about 80% case workers rate (the lowest), 20% supervisors and no barristers rate unless things get complicated – but at least we have one in-house at half the usual cost.  That usually comes in where there are serious tax issues or complex trusts, and you will always be advised before this rate is charged.  In most firms, paralegals are charged out at around the same rate as our barrister, and a barristers rate would be the best part of twice as much.  Please do check!

Survey of  Probate Solicitors fees

This is the most recent survey of solicitors fees we could find; clearly, you are unlikely to be using a “Magic Circle” law firm (unless you are very rich!)

Average Probate Solicitors charge-out rates 2011.

Per hour,  plus VAT.

Posh solicitors: £600-£700

Posh firms newly-qualified lawyer: £300

City firm partner (outside the magic circle): £425-£600

City firm with less than 2 years’ post-qualification experience: £215-£300

Major regional and national firm partner: £325-£450

Major regional and national firm with less than 2 years post qualification experience: £175-£240

Source: Jim Diamond’s Hourly Rate Survey 2011

Low cost probate our hourly rates: are much less and the extras (“disbursements”) will be a lot lower, as we don’t have any hidden or unclear charges.

Low cost probate.