Probate Options

Probate Options – choosing the wrong one can be expensive.

Just because a solicitor stores a Will, there is no need to use their Probate service. That is what they are hoping you will do, without bothering to check their fees first.  Then they can charge you at their highest rates.

That said, you shouldn’t dismiss taking at least some professional help. It can usually be paid for from the estate of the person who has died.  The professional takes the burden away from you, perhaps saving months of anxiety.

These are the Probate Options facing you:

1)      Do it yourself Probate option.

  • For simple estates, if you are a competent administrator and there are no significant taxes or benefits to deal with, this can be the best option.
  • As long as you have the time.
  • It may be the only option if there is likely to be no money to pay anyone.
  • Where Inheritance Tax may be involved, be very, very careful as you could face a personal tax penalty of up to the full amount of tax payable, on top of the estate paying the tax.
  • Further down the page are some resources which may help if you want to take that route.

2)      Assisted Do It Yourself Probate option.

  • We felt that there should be a halfway house between doing everything yourself, or handing it all to a professional. It is only suitable for simple estates with no Inheritance Tax issues or Trusts or significant lifetime gifts (which might get caught by Inheritance Tax).
  •  Do as much or as little of the work as you wish, we will do what you ask us to do and no more.  Clearly, we cannot be responsible for your errors or omissions!

3)      Use a Bank to carry out Probate

Expensive!

4)      The Usual Probate Option – pick a random High Street Solicitor.

  • Some solicitors will offer you a very good deal on probate fees,
  • Solicitors will expect you to take time off and travel to see them.
  • The Law Society also authorises solicitors to charge anything up to 1.8% of the value of the estate as a bonus on top of their normal hourly rate. We have chosen not to do this.
  • Many firms charge in 6 minute units, so a 1 minute call costs 6 minutes and a 7 minute one 12 minutes.  We don’t do this either.
  • Some firms charge a fee per letter they send out, and the time too.  We just charge for the time taken,
  • All fee agreements need to be reviewed very carefully so you can be sure how what you are paying will be calculated.

5)      Using The Probate Department Ltd:

  • We offer a highly personalised service with a designated case manager who will deal with you and keep you advised throughout.
  • No need to take time off work.
  • You can email, write or phone anytime (messages after hours).
  • We’ll only charge for senior staff time when it is needed.  In most cases, that will just be to review files and complete tax forms and Court applications.
  • We have a Tax Adviser actually on hand in the office when complicated issues come up.  But her hourly rate is less than half what it was when she worked for a London firm several years ago.
  • We keep our overheads down and pass the benefit on to you in lower costs.
  • We are friendly and approachable, and we do understand that this is not something you do every day, so we will be patient if necessary.
  • We will just help with part of the work, if that is what suits you.

You can contact us on 01323 406299 or use the form below

The options in more detail:

1) DIY Probate

You can ring the local Probate Registry (or any Probate Registry) to send you the forms, or we have many of them on our site here.

2) Assisted Do It Yourself Probate.

As we said above – as much or as little help as you need. If you don’t use up the time paid for by the deposit fee, we’ll refund the change

3) Banks Probate Services

Many banks now contract out their work and just take a substantial commission.  Banks used to offer highly respected but rather expensive probate advice.

4) High Street Solicitors

On top of the hourly rate (which would be all that we would charge), you may be charged for letters and for what is called a responsibility allowance:

“Solicitor not acting as an executor

  • Value of gross estate less residence 1%
  • Value of residence 0.5%

Solicitor acting as sole executor or joint executor with another person

  • Value of gross estate less residence 1.5%
  • Value of residence 0.75%”

Not all solicitors will charge it. The extra percentages are often called a “responsibility allowance,”   You can see the Guidance notes here if you want to confirm it!  If the house is worth £300,000 and the rest of the estate £100,000, the extra cost could be £1,750 where the solicitor is not the executor and a whopping  £3,750 where they are.  Plus 20% VAT, of course.

6)      Our Probate Service: we are specialists.

We prefer to operate on an hourly basis, which means that easy estates pay less, and the few that turn out to be more complex than expected pay more.   We have automated many of our systems so that (for example) a letter will probably only take 2 or 3 minutes, rather than maybe 30 with old fashioned manual systems.   So we try to keep costs down as far as possible.

We will quote a fixed fee if you can give full details of the contents of the estate and the beneficiaries: otherwise the complicated estates are subsidised by the easy ones, under most firms “fixed fee” systems – and we don’t think that is fair.