When a loved one passes away, it is often up to a family member to deal with their estate. This can be a daunting task which can often turn into a far more complicated process than you might expect it to be – particularly if there is not a valid Will in place.
We know that this will already be an upsetting time for you and, as the executor or administrator of an estate, you may be unsure about what you need to do next and who you can turn to for some clarity, guidance and support. That is where we can help.
If you are acting as the executor or administrator of a deceased person’s estate, or are next of kin, we can help you deal with everything correctly and efficiently, whether there is a Will in place or not, taking the pressure off you during this difficult time in your life.
Our specialist probate solicitors in Ossett, Wakefield, Garforth and Sherburn in Elmet, have extensive experience in all aspects of probate law, having helped many individuals and families with the swift and effective administration of a deceased person’s estate.
We will be on hand, when you need us most, to guide you through every step of the estate administration process, either providing advice or acting on your behalf, taking care of everything from start to finish and lifting the burden off you.
Our expert team of probate solicitors at Thornton Jones can help you with a full range of probate law services that can be tailored to match your particular needs and circumstances. The types of issues we can help you with include:
- Obtaining a Grant of Probate
- Obtaining a Grant of Letters of Administration
- Estate administration
- Interpreting a Will
- Challenging a Will
- Defending a Will
- Tax planning including inheritance tax and capital gains tax
- Claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975
- Contentious probate
The Probate Process
Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person’s estate which is made up of their money, property and any possessions they had at the time of their death.
Our dedicated team of probate solicitors will be on hand to guide you seamlessly through the probate process, ensuring that all the required tasks are completed efficiently and correctly, helping you to avoid any claims being made against the estate or any potential disputes arising.
Assets in an estate remain frozen until the Probate Registry gives the authority to the executor nominated in the Will. This authority is in the form of a document known as a Grant of Probate. We will help you with the process of probate which involves:
- Applying for the grant of probate
- Collecting any money that is owed
- Selling estate property and assets
- Settling any debts due (including any outstanding taxes)
- Closing bank accounts
- Dividing the estate between the beneficiaries
Rules of Intestacy
Where there is a valid Will, the estate will pass to those named in the Will. Where there is not a valid Will, a suitable family member could apply to be an administrator and can, therefore, act on behalf of the estate where the Rules of Intestacy will apply.
Whatever your circumstances, our expert probate solicitors will be there to advise you at each and every stage of the probate and estate administration process, through any issues that might arise, and will be ready to help you with matters such as:
- Interpreting a Will.
- Establishing the size of an estate for probate and inheritance tax purposes.
- Preparing an application for the Grant of Representation or Grant of Probate.
- Lodging the required forms with the relevant organisations to collect monies due to the estate and settle any outstanding debts.
- Arranging the transfer or sale of shares.
- Handling the sale of property or land.
- Preparing interest and inheritance tax returns.
- Preparing estate accounts.
- Advice on post death tax planning to reduce capital gains and inheritance tax liabilities
Probate and Estate Administration and Fees
Clients instructing Thornton Jones will receive the following:
- A dedicated and experienced probate solicitor;
- A STEP qualified supervisor;
- Regular updates on the progress of the estate administration. These will be agreed from time to time with you, in our experience some clients prefer to keep in regular contact whereas some clients prefer to only hear when there is an update;
- Links to third parties who may be required to support the estate administration, for example house clearance, estate agents, financial advisors, accountants (these are based purely on feedback/expertise, we have no financial interest to refer work).
Probate - How long will it take and how much will it cost?
Options for Thornton Jones to assist:
Note that for all options listed below, additional costs (sometimes called disbursements) will also apply – these are also detailed below.
Option 1: Full Estate Administration
The exact cost for the Probate work we undertake will depend ultimately on the individual circumstances of the matter. Each matter varies in complexity and our experienced team will provide the expert advice needed in each case. Costs vary depending on the size and complexity of the estate and we will provide a bespoke estimate in each case. The costs below illustrate a range of potential costs. For example, if the estate is not complicated, there is only one beneficiary and no property and limited assets to collect, costs are likely to be at the lower end of the range. If there are multiple beneficiaries, a property and multiple bank accounts and other assets the costs will be at the higher end.
There are features which make a matter particularly complicated and as such cost more. Examples of this may include if the estate is liable to inheritance tax, includes assets abroad, trusts, lifetime gifts or assets for which it is necessary to claim Business Property or Agricultural Property Relief.
This information below gives an example of costs for simple estates where:
- There is a valid will
- All assets are in the UK
- There is no more than one property
- There are no more than 4 bank or building society accounts
- There are no other intangible assets
- There are 1-4 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 and the estate does not include a business, farms, farmhouses or farmland, an interest in another estate, loans or mortgages payable to the deceased, foreign assets, assets held in trust, national Heritage assets or unlisted stocks and shares and control holdings.
Legal Fees and Disbursements:
Applying for the grant, collecting and distributing the assets:
This work will usually take between 15 and 25 hours work and our Probate team charge between £230 and £275 per hour plus VAT. The range of hourly rates applied will vary according to the seniority and qualifications of the people handling the probate and are reviewed on annual basis. The fees could usually therefore be between £3,450 and £6,875 plus VAT.
So for example, if the work takes 25 hours to complete and the hourly rate of the person, handling the matter is £230 plus VAT, the legal fee charged will be £5,750 plus VAT.
When you instruct us, we will send a letter to you setting out the basis upon which we will charge our fees.
It may be possible for us to agree a fixed fee for the work involved in certain circumstances. If this is something that you wish us to consider, please let us know and if possible a bespoke fixed fee will be provided for your matter.
Additional costs – also known as ‘Disbursements’
Disbursements are costs related to your matter that are payable to third parties, such as court fees. We handle the payment of the disbursements on your behalf to ensure a smoother process. Below are some of the possible disbursements which may be payable during the estate administration, this list is not exhaustive and additional disbursements may arise:
- Probate application fee of £273 plus £1.50 per additional copy of the Grant of Probate
- Bankruptcy search (£2 plus VAT per person)
- Land Registry office copy entries and plan £6 plus VAT per property
- S27 Trustee Act Notice Post in The London Gazette and a local newspaper – this protects against unexpected claims from unknown creditors – approximately £200-300 plus VAT. This price will vary depending on location and the exact amount will be confirmed to you.
- Certainty Will search £95 plus VAT
- Identity check per executor and beneficiary £20 plus VAT per person
- Valuation fees – for properties, house contents or personal possession – fees vary depending on the type of asset and extent of items to be valued
- Accountancy fees- this will vary depending on the work required and may not be necessary in all cases. Examples of when this might be necessary are if the deceased completed tax returns during their lifetime, or was not up to date with their tax affairs or where capital gains arise or gross income is received in the administration period
- Landmark Financial Asset search – search for lost and dormant and unclaimed assets - £155 plus VAT
What services does this estimate include?
The following steps are included:
- Identifying the legally appointed executors or administrators and beneficiaries
- Establishing the extent of the estate by identifying the various assets and liabilities
- Preparing the application for the Grant of Probate and submitting this to the appropriate Probate Registry together with the Will,
- Preparing and submitting the Inheritance tax form IHT205 or IHT400 and any associated schedules (as appropriate)
- Once the Grant is received from the Probate Registry, submitting this to the various organisations with whom assets are held in order to start the process of encashing the assets or transferring the assets into the beneficiaries’ names as appropriate
- Settling the estate liabilities
- Reporting any income or capital gains tax in the administration period (an accountant’s services may be required depending on the complexity)
- Preparation of the Estate accounts
- Distribution of the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will.
Potential additional costs include:
- If there is no will or the estate consists of any share holdings (stocks and bonds) there are likely to be additional costs that could range significantly depending on the estate and how it is to be dealt with. If it is necessary to make an application to claim the transferrable Nil Rate Band or the Residential Nil Rate Band then additional costs will apply. We can give you a more accurate estimate once we have more information.
- If the estate is a taxable estate, then costs will be higher than estimated above, we will provide an estimate of costs once we have full details of the size and complexity of the estate
- Dealing with the following ancillary matters are not included however we would be pleased to assist you with this and an estimate of costs can be provided where necessary:
- The sale or transfer of any property in the estate
- Deeds of Variation/Redirection of Inheritances/Disclaimers of Inheritances
- Winding up a Will Trust or making transfers of assets from a Will Trust
- Establishing Will Trusts or making changes to a Will Trust
- Registration of a Will Trust with HMRC
The figures cited above are purely illustrative and the likely cost of our fees and of the necessary disbursements will be estimated once the Solicitor dealing with your matter has had the opportunity to review the Will, the assets and liabilities of the estate and to ascertain whether there are any potentially complicating factors. Estimates are not fixed quotes and are subject to review throughout the course of a matter.
The typical timescales and key stages of the transaction:
- On average, for non-taxable estates as detailed above it takes approximately 3 to 4 months to gather the information required to apply for the Grant of Probate. In the current climate it is taking approximately 2 to 3 months for a Grant to then be issued, assuming that an online application can be made. If a paper probate application is necessary, then this is taking approximately 5 to 6 months due to current backlogs within the Probate Registry.
- For taxable estates submitting the IHT400, paying the Inheritance tax and obtaining the Grant usually takes approximately 5 months in the current climate for an online application or longer if a paper application is required.
- Following issue of the Grant is usually takes approximately 6 months for a straightforward estate to be administered although this can take longer. Complex estates can take 18 months or longer to be administered after the Grant has been issued.
- We do not advise that any assets are distributed to the beneficiaries until 6 months has passed from the date of the Grant of Probate, to protect against any claims against the estate.
Option 2: Obtaining the Grant of Probate only for the executors
We can help you through this difficult process by obtaining the Grant of Probate on your behalf based on a fixed fee. This information about costs is for estates where there is a valid and simple Will and no more than 5 assets.
In order for us to prepare the application for the Grant you will need to provide us with all information regarding the estate such as the date of death balances on all accounts held and a probate valuation for any property. We will let you know at the time what other information is required. The fixed fee is based on us being provided with all requested information to enable the application to be prepared and does not include the gathering in of any assets nor the distribution of the estate or preparation of estate accounts. Please note that each case is different and once we have spoken with you, we will provide a bespoke quote to meet your individual circumstances. We will aim to provide a fixed fee for this service which depends on the complexity of the estate.
The fixed fees we charge are as follows:
- For a for a non-taxable estate where an online probate application is possible – £1,275 plus VAT*
- For a for a non-taxable estate where a paper probate application is necessary - £1,500 plus VAT*
For a taxable estate or an estate which may be non-taxable but for which a form IHT400 is required, fixed fees start from £2,500 plus VAT and will be confirmed on a case by case basis.
In addition to our fees there will be an application fee payable to the Probate Registry of £273 plus £1.50 for each copy of the Grant of Probate required.
When you instruct us we will send a letter to you setting out the basis upon which we will charge our fees.
What services does this fee include?
- Providing you with a list of all information required for the Probate application for you to gather together;
- Upon receipt of that information, we will prepare the application for the Grant of Probate and submit this to the appropriate Probate Registry together with the Will;
- We will then provide you with the Grant of Probate for you to deal with the administration and distribution of the estate.
What this service does not include:
- This fixed fee is for a limited piece of work to obtain the Grant of Probate for you;
- Once the Grant has been obtained our involvement ends and it will be for you to deal with the estate administration to include dealing with any income tax, capital gains tax, paying any debts, identifying beneficiaries, drafting estate accounts and distributing to the beneficiaries.
Potential additional costs include:
- If there is no will or if it is necessary to make an application for the transferrable nil rate band or residence nil rate band then additional costs will apply and the fixed fee will be higher. We can give you a more accurate quote once we have more information;
- Dealing with the sale or transfer of any property in the estate is not included, we can assist with this and a quote can be provided where necessary.
The typical timescales and key stages of the transaction:
- On average, for a fixed fee application we aim to prepare the application for the Grant of Probate within 2-3 weeks from receipt of all documentation from you required to us to prepare the application. In the current climate it is taking approximately 2 to 3 months for a Grant to be issued if an online application can be made. If a paper probate application is necessary, then this is taking approximately 5 to 6 months due to current backlogs within the Probate Registry.
The experience of the people who may carry out the work for you:
Our Private Client Team consists of:
- Elizabeth Fyfe - (Director) STEP qualified Solicitor, Solicitor for the Elderly and member of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Solicitors
- Amanda Gait - Senior Solicitor
- Joanne Gibson – Senior Solicitor
- Melanie Pickering – Solicitor
- Melita Roberts - Solicitor
- Francesca Thomas – Solicitor
- Molly Sutherland – Trainee Solicitor
Our Private Client Team assistants are:
- Taylor Hugo
- Ellie Brown
- Joanne Palmer
- Ellie Thornton
- Mariella Bulmer