Wills, Trusts & Probate
Probate & Estates
The death of a loved one is a traumatic time and dealing with their estate can be difficult. Here at W Davies our Wills, Trusts & Probate Department has a number of compassionate, efficient, professional and friendly solicitors who are able to deal with all aspects on a person’s death.
What does the administration of an estate entail?
ExecutorsIf a person prepared a Will, they will have appointed “Executors” who are the people responsible for dealing with the estate and distributing any assets in accordance with the wishes expressed in the Will. If there was no Will (known as an intestacy), these duties fall to the Administrators of the estate. Administrators are individuals, who have an entitlement under the estate, and have applied to be responsible for dealing with the administration.
Grant of Probate/Letters of AdministrationIf the deceased person held any assets in their sole name then a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration may be required in order for the assets to be released. The Grant is issued by the Probate Registry and confirms the legal authority of an Executor or Administrator. A Grant will usually be required if the deceased owned property, stocks and shares or bank accounts in their sole name. Any bank accounts which are owned jointly will pass automatically to the survivor, though some paperwork may still be required.
Inheritance TaxThere may also be Inheritance Tax (IHT) to pay. On death, each person has a Nil Rate Band (NRB). This is a figure that is allowed to pass without being subject to IHT from one’s estate. Any assets over the value of the available NRB are subject to IHT at a rate of 40%. For married couples, it is possible that the NRB of the first spouse to die may be transferred to the surviving spouse’s estate (this will depend on specific circumstances which we can advise upon).
DistributionOnce all assets of the estate have been collected and all debts and liabilities paid, the Executors or Administrators will need to distribute the estate in accordance with the Will or, in the case of an intestacy, the law.
A PROBATE INVOLVING A RANGE OF COSTS
In dealing with an administration of an estate, firstly, we would establish the extent of the client’s instructions and hence the retainer we have with the client. The client may instruct us simply to obtain the Grant of Representation; this would involve checking the extent of the assets and establishing if a Grant is required. In any case, if a Grant is not required, we would need to ensure that the relevant reporting to HMRC has been duly carried out – e.g. where a significant gift was made within seven years prior to death. Alternatively, the client may instruct us to complete the whole of the administration.
Fees, hourly rates and value element
The estate administration fees will depend on a variety of factors, including the nature of the retainer between us and the client – i.e. the extent of the client’s involvement, the work they are doing, and the paperwork and forms that need to be completed (which papers can be simple or complex). It is difficult to estimate fees precisely, since some of the time spent is dependent on the actions of third parties, which are outside our control. We provide an estimate of costs, bearing in mind that the time taken to complete the matter may be more or less than the given estimate, dependant upon any complexities or unanticipated issues which may arise during the administration of the estate. A suitable caveat is included in our Client Care Letter.
Private Client fees are calculated by reference to the time spent by various members of W Davies’ Solicitors in dealing with the matter (and an additional percentage charge (between ½ to 1½ %) may be charged to reflect the responsibility element in relation to the size of the estate). Our hourly rates are currently between £125 and £300 plus VAT. The Private Client department makes use of Legal Executives and Paralegals, where possible to reduce costs.
This estimate does not include Directors’ time for acting as professional Executors, which will be charged at a rate of £300 plus VAT per hour. It is not possible to anticipate the amount of time which will be required to be spent by the Executors, as this will occur on an ad hoc basis.
Whilst W Davies provides fixed fees for Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney, provided certain criteria are met, W Davies do not provide a fixed fee for the administration of an estate.
W Davies would generally estimate that between 25 and 30 hours of time is required to carry out the administration of an estate. However, this may vary depending on the complexity of the estate and the individual circumstances. This would also be dependant upon the experience of the practitioner dealing with the matter.
The client can request that costs should not exceed a given figure without seeking his / her / their permission to proceed further. A client may request an updating of costs from time to time.
We set out below examples of where fees may vary depending on the complexity:
Examples of estates
An example of a fairly simple estate would be:
1) There is a valid Will;
2) There are no more than two beneficiaries;
3) There is only one property;
4) There are no disputes involved;
5) There is no inheritance tax payable;
6) The personal representatives do not need to submit a full Account to HMRC;
7) There are no claims made against the estate; and
8) There are no chargeable gains on disposals made during the administration period.
An example of a complex estate would be where the following might apply:
1) There is no Will;
2) There are a number of beneficiaries and legatees and some beneficiaries may be charities or may live abroad;
3) Agricultural property or business property assets are involved ;
4) There is Inheritance Tax to pay and a full Account to HMRC is required;
5) There are foreign assets involved and domicile issues; and
6) Tax planning is required including a deed of variation or advice regarding the residence nil rate band.
However, even in a simple case, there may be numerous small assets that require attention and time – hence, a varying of the fees.
Conveyancing or other work
We would provide a separate quotation for work such as conveyancing (e.g. sale or transfer of a property) or a contentious matter.
We may have to make payments (“disbursements”) on a client’s behalf to third parties during the course of the matter. Set out below is a list of the disbursements, which we would normally expect to have to incur. Some disbursements may not be foreseeable.
The following list is not exhaustive:-
- Commissioner’s/Swear Fee – £5 per Oath and £2 for each exhibit.
- Grant of Representation Fee £155 (plus 50p per sealed copy); no fees are payable where an estate is worth less than £5,000.
- Statutory Notices £200 approximately, dependant on the quotation given by the Legal Advertisements Agency and dependant on which newspapers it is appropriate to use. These notices provide some protection to personal representatives in relation to creditors.
- Tracked DX for submissions to Court £5.00 per submission.
- Land Registry Bankruptcy Searches £2 plus VAT per individual, per search.
- Land Registry office copies of title £3 plus VAT (with the Title plan the cost is £6 plus VAT).
- Landmark Asset Search £135 plus VAT.
New Probate fees
From April 2019, it is proposed that the probate fee will no longer be fixed; instead, it will increase according to the value of the estate. While estates worth less than £50,000 will not have to pay a probate fee, larger estates worth £2 million or more will be charged £6,000.
In general, it is difficult to provide an accurate timescale regarding the administration of an estate, as we are dependant on the timescales of third parties (e.g. banks, building societies and HMRC). The timescale also depends upon the extent to which we already have relevant and accurate valuations, or whether we need to obtain them.
Obtaining a Grant of Representation usually takes between 3 and 6 months. Once obtained, the next stages would be to take the executors’ further instructions. At this stage, we would usually pay the liabilities and any legacies, before making interim distributions, where appropriate. We will ensure that all taxation is dealt with and that Estate Accounts are prepared for approval by the executors.
The second stage of the administration can take a further 6 to 12 months dependant on the timescales of third parties. The administration of particularly complicated estates can take longer.
If a matter is urgent – for example, where inheritance tax is due or overdue – W Davies will prioritise this. Throughout the administration, we also take into account various applicable, key dates – e.g. the deadline for completing a deed of variation in order to benefit from an IHT advantage.
W Davies issues an invoice for work carried out once we have received the sealed Grant of Representation. Depending on the complexity of the estate, it may be appropriate for us to deliver interim invoices; usually, this would be on a three or six monthly basis, until the administration period is concluded. Fee estimates will be revised, where appropriate. Once a Grant of Representation has been obtained, our initial costs estimate will be reviewed – and you will be advised accordingly.
If, for any reason, a client decides not to proceed with their instructions to us to act, then we will prepare an invoice for our costs on an hourly rate basis, for the period from receipt of initial instructions (to include our first meeting) to the completion of our involvement with the matter.
Payment on account
W Davies reserves the right to require payment on account of anticipated costs or disbursements.
Claims against an Estate
You may wish to make a claim against an estate, or a third party may make a claim against an estate that you are dealing with. The sorts of claims that commonly arise include:
- A beneficiary under the estate feels they have not been adequately provided for.
- An individual may not have been provided for at all and feel they have an entitlement under the estate.
- A beneficiary or individual may feel that the Will is not valid, or that the deceased was under undue influence or lacked capacity at the time of making the Will.
We can offer specialist advice in determining the validity of a claim on your behalf and assist you in pursuing or defending a claim against the estate.
At W Davies we will endeavour to ensure that you will always deal with the same solicitor (holidays, aside) to ensure that you receive the personal service needed at such a difficult time.
Our solicitors can handle the winding-up of an estate with great sensitivity and understanding to help family and friends through what can be a confusing and upsetting time.
For more information or to make an appointment with a Probate Solicitor in Woking, please contact us on 01483 744900.