Probate fees applying for the grant of representation, collecting and distributing the estate

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Private Client and Tax

What we do

Led by partner Clare Archer, our private client team has many years’ experience dealing with the administration of estates and probate matters, together with the complex legal challenges they can create.

With private client teams in London, Guildford, Oxford and Basingstoke, our wide-ranging expertise ensures we can provide sympathetic, practical advice whether an estate faces specific legal difficulties or is less complex.  

Administering an estate

The administration of an individual’s estate following their death can be an extremely daunting and challenging time. We are here to advise and support clients during this difficult period.

At the outset, the estate’s personal representatives (those who are appointed to deal with its administration) must be identified. An application for a grant of representation to the probate registry may also be required to acquire their legal authority to administer the estate. Where a will exists, personal representatives are known as executors and apply for a grant of probate. If the deceased died without a will (intestate) then their personal representatives are administrators and the grant they can apply for is one called letters of administration.

It is very important if there is uncertainty or questions about how an estate should be managed to seek our advice. Failure to adhere to the correct processes can be extremely costly: personal liability can, for example, be incurred by the personal representatives where an estate is incorrectly administered. Additional costs can also be incurred with HM Revenue & Customs if inheritance tax is incorrectly paid or is late.

HMRC provides more information about the administration of an estate and taxation payable on death.

The basis for our charges

Our fees are generally incurred by reference to the time spent by a fee-earner dealing with the matter and charging for this time at an hourly rate. Our estimated fees (examples of which are provided below) will reflect the particular complexities of the estate and will also vary according to office location, seniority and the experience of the person undertaking the work. We have a partner led process and we will tell clients who will be acting for them and what their hourly rate is at the start of the matter.

The hourly rates as at December 2018 are:

Senior counsel                         

£450 - £530 plus VAT per hour

Partners

£300 - £475 plus VAT per hour

Senior associates      

£200 - £340 plus VAT per hour

Associates

£175 - £295 plus VAT per hour

Trainee solicitors

£150 - £185 plus VAT per hour

Case managers/paralegals

£135 - £150 plus VAT per hour

We have extensive expertise in providing bespoke quotes for our clients and would be happy to discuss other pricing alternatives with clients including a fixed fee, if required.

Please note our fee estimates exclude any taxes which are owed and paid separately by the estate to HMRC. Our fees are not deductible against inheritance tax. 

Our fee estimates

The following are guides only. Clients should speak to us if they would like a bespoke quote. Our services are also available for work up to and obtaining the grant only or just for post grant matters. Once we have received more information, we can discuss the most suitable options.

Group 1 estate

Administration of a straightforward non-contentious estate with all assets based in England and Wales - grant of probate, collecting and distribution of the assets.

Our total estimated costs for this estate are between £5,000 to £11,000 (plus VAT and disbursements).

As an example, a straightforward estate may provide a valid will and only two beneficiaries: the spouse and adult child of the deceased. The surviving spouse inherits the estate, while the child receives a small legacy. There is only one property and it passes automatically to the surviving spouse.

A grant of probate is required to access some of the assets owned solely by the deceased such as a substantive ISA and two bank accounts. There is no inheritance tax payable and the executors do not need to submit a full account to HMRC. The clients arrange the funeral and are able to undertake some of the less complex probate tasks themselves, such as notifying relevant authorities of the death and securing relevant asset valuations.

Work for this type of straightforward estate would include:

Pre-grant

 

  • advice in a meeting with confirmation in writing about the estate;
  • advising the executors as to their duties and responsibilities;
  • reviewing the will to ascertain the executors and its other provisions;
  • cancelling any registered powers of attorney with the court;
  • identifying the assets and liabilities of the estate and writing to the relevant parties;
  • submitting the relevant IHT forms where there is no tax to pay (a full return is not required) and claiming exemptions;
  • reviewing income tax position to date of death;
  • completing the probate application and the relevant HMRC forms;
  • drafting a legal oath to swear;
  • meeting to review probate papers;
  • arranging for the signing and swearing of the papers to apply for the grant of probate and the submission of those documents; and
  • obtaining the grant of probate and supplying copies.

Post-grant

 

  • preparing relevant paperwork for withdrawing or encashing assets and transferring assets to beneficiaries;
  • paying various liabilities;
  • preparing the trust and estate tax return to the end of the administration period and settling any income tax and/or capital gains tax liabilities;
  • placing the statutory advertisements for creditors;
  • preparing final estate accounts; and
  • dealing with all correspondence and telephone attendances up to final settlement of the estate.

Group 2 estate

Administration of a complex non-contentious estate with all assets based in England and Wales – grant of probate, collecting and distribution.

Our total estimated costs for this estate are between £11,000 to £29,000 (plus VAT and disbursements).

As an example, a more complex estate could be where the deceased died without a will. We advise on the intestacy provisions. They left a spouse, two young children and an adult child. The deceased made a substantial gift to their adult child five years before they died.

The deceased was a farmer and their estate included a farm and several properties in England. The estate is valued at over £5 million pounds and includes an extensive share portfolio, from which several key documents are missing. A full IHT account will need to be submitted to HMRC. The deceased was born in America but had lived in England for most of their life and the executors are concerned about the tax implications of these issues.

Work for this type of complex estate would include all the work we undertake for a straightforward estate and in addition:

Pre-grant

 

  • advising on the taxation implications of life time gifts for the estate;
  • advising on the intestacy position;
  • obtaining specialist property valuations;
  • providing valuations for the multiple bank accounts, shares and properties owned by the deceased;
  • advising on the availability of specific inheritance tax reliefs; 
  • arranging for the payment of inheritance tax and advising the client on the instalment option if available;
  • submitting a full inheritance tax account to HMRC which includes supplementary forms to claim specific inheritance tax exemptions;
  • dealing with additional questions HMRC have with regard to valuations and reliefs available to the estate; and
  • advising on residency issues and their taxation implications for the estate.

Post-grant

 

  • repaying administrator’s expenses and other administrative tasks;
  • contacting each beneficiary for bank information, distributing funds and assisting with tax forms;
  • tax clearance issues with HMRC;
  • assigning assets as required and advising on the capital gains tax consequences of not doing so; and
  • completion of tax compliance forms for trusts within the estate.

Group 3 estate

Administration of a complex non-contentious estate with overseas assets.

We are regularly appointed to advise on international estates. They are especially complex and a bespoke quote is always necessary. We would be happy to discuss this or any elements of the fees we have detailed and provide a personalised quote.

Our work for international estates may include receiving instructions where the deceased was on their second marriage. Their estate is very complex and valued at over £20 million. The deceased had homes both in England and France, with additional international bank accounts. They were an entrepreneur and held interests in several different global businesses. They leave different wills applicable to relevant jurisdictions and we are required to liaise with specific countries to determine access to assets. We have to assist a search agency with the location of a missing beneficiary.

Tax status and the implications of this for their estate must also be addressed.

Disbursements

Disbursements are costs related to the matter that are payable to third parties, such as court fees. We handle the payment of the disbursements on the client's behalf to ensure a smoother process. Disbursements for which there is a separate, additional charge by way of example include: 

Fee

Cost

Probate fee

£155 with £1 (two additional copies 0.50 x 2 = £1)

Bankruptcy search

£2 for each beneficiary

Oath swear (per person)

Will (£7) plus a codicil (£2)

Newspaper posts for creditors (optional)

£200

Land Registry fee

£3

Additional fees

For group 1 and 2 estates, work that will incur separate, additional fees may include:

  • protracted advice in relation to significant lifetime gifts;
  • advice in relation to contentious matters;
  • complex valuation issues;
  • dealing with the sale or transfer of a property in an estate;
  • advice in relation to overseas assets and overseas grants;
  • detailed advice on access to the deceased’s digital assets including access to the assets and their disposal;
  • drafting certain additional documents such as those varying inheritance or a power of attorney;
  • wider tax advice on capital gains tax or complex inheritance tax reliefs; 
  • protracted correspondence with HMRC with regard to valuations or taxation issues; and
  • dealing with any corrective accounts required by HMRC.

How long will this take?

On average, estates are dealt with within a year. For a simple estate, obtaining the grant of probate takes three to six months depending, in particular, on the tax obligations of the estate. Collecting assets then follows, which can take between three to six months. Once this has been done, we can finalise the estate and distribute the assets. Any of these time limits can extend significantly, if the response from third parties takes longer than anticipated. The time limits for a more complex estate will always be longer than one where the administration is straight forward, particularly where the option to pay inheritance tax by instalments is taken. 

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Penningtons Manches LLP

Penningtons Manches LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. San Francisco is an associated office.

Penningtons Manches LLP