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 isn’t 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’s 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 West Yorkshire, 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 the 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 on 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 with a document known as a Grant of Probate. We will help you with the process of probate which involves:
- Applying for 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 Will, the estate will pass to those named in the Will. Where there isn’t a 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 whatever issues that might arise, and will be on 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;
- a dedicated assistant on the file who can be contacted if the probate solicitor is unavailable;
- 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’s 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?
The exact cost for the Probate work we undertake will depend ultimately on the individual circumstances of the matter. Each estate varies and our experienced team will provide the expert advice needed in each case. The cost will depend largely on the size of the estate, complexity of the matter, and how you wish Thornton Jones to assist. We will provide a bespoke quote in each case. We have a range of services available and a range of pricing options to choose from.
There are features which make a matter particularly complicated and as such cost more. Examples of this may include if the estate includes assets abroad, trusts, lifetime gifts or assets for which it is necessary to claim Business Property or Agricultural Property Relief.
Options for Thornton Jones to assist:
Note that for all options listed below, additional costs (sometimes called disbursements) will also apply – these are detailed below.
Option 1: Full Estate Administration
Listening to feedback from our clients we know that having certainty at a difficult time can bring comfort and reassurance. As such, where possible we will provide the option for the costs of the estate administration to be carried out on a fixed fee basis.
Fixed fees for the administration of an estate start at 1.5% of the gross value of the estate passing under the Grant of Probate / Letters of Administration plus VAT. These costs relate to an estate where there is a valid and simple Will, no more than 5 assets and no more than 4 beneficiaries.
This is subject to a minimum fee of £2500 plus VAT for estates where there is no Inheritance tax liability and a full inheritance tax account (IHT400) is not required and £4,500 plus VAT for estates where there is an inheritance tax liability or a IHT400 is required for other reasons such as to claim the residence nil rate band or another allowance.
Examples where a fixed fee may not be possible or where a higher percentage may be charged include:
- Highly complex assets, for example complex business assets for which the extent of our involvement cannot be gauged at the outset;
- Overseas assets;
- Complex tax considerations or likelihood of HMRC investigations;
- Likelihood of a challenge to the Will or someone challenging the distribution of the estate.
We may still be able to provide a fixed fee for part of the process by excluding those elements which are uncertain or complex from the fixed fee and charging those at our hourly rates.
A full list of our hourly rates for all grades of staff at Thornton Jones can be found on our Fees & Funding page.
Additional Costs – also known as ‘Disbursements’
Below are some of the possible disbursements which may be payable during the estate administration. 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. This list is not exhaustive and additional disbursements may arise:
Probate application fee of £155 plus £1.50 for any additional copies 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 – Protects against unexpected claims from unknown creditors – approximately £200-300 plus VAT. This price will varies 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 fee include?
- 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.
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 with Covid-19 it is taking approximately 3 to 4 months for a Grant to then be issued.
- For taxable estates submitting the IHT400, paying the Inheritance tax and obtaining the Grant usually takes approximately 5 months in the current climate.
- 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.
Assumptions and exclusions when we provide a quote
We provide all clients with a document clearly setting out what advice we will be providing within the fixed fee quoted. This document will also set out the assumptions upon which the quote is based and any exclusions (i.e matters not covered by the fixed fee).
Examples of what will not usually be covered in the fee (but will be available at an additional cost) are things such as:
- fees associated with the Sale or Transfer of Property/Land 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
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 the 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 fee we charge starts from £850 plus VAT for a non- taxable estate as detailed above. For an estate which is liable to pay inheritance tax or one where a full inheritance tax account (IHT400) is required to claim the residence nil rate band or for any other reason our fixed fees start from £2,000 plus VAT.
In addition to our fees there will be an application fee payable to the Probate Registry of £155 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 for non-taxable estates, it is taking approximately 3 to 4 months for a Grant to then be issued.
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 and member of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Solicitors
- Amanda Gait - Senior Solicitor
- Linda Barrett - STEP qualified Senior Solicitor
- Claire Cutts - STEP qualified Senior Solicitor
- Melita Roberts - Solicitor
- Melanie Pickering - Solicitor
Our Private Client Team assaitancts are:
- Michelle Hitch
- Emma Wicks
- Jessica Orme
- Lucy Kelly