Probate

Our team consists of experienced solicitors who specialise in the administration of estates.

The administration of all estates are conducted by qualified solicitors.

WHAT WE DO

Following a death we provide comprehensive advice on dealing with the financial, tax and property issues and obligations facing the family or friends.

We frequently advise on estates where specialist expertise is needed including:

  • Farms
  • Land
  • Businesses
  • Charities
  • Agricultural property relief
  • Business property relief
  • Residential nil rate bands
  • And the resulting negotiations with HM Revenue & Customs

We often act as professional executors and advise family executors.

HOW WE DO IT

IS THERE A WILL?

We establish if there is a Will.

If so we advise on whether it is valid and what it means. This is not always straight forward so we sometimes need to obtain statements from witnesses to the Will or the person who drafted the Will.

IF THERE IS NO WILL?

This is known as an ‘intestacy’. We advise as to who is entitled to act as the administrator of the estate and who is entitled to benefit from the deceased’s estate.

We obtain values of the assets by contacting the asset holder.

We carefully obtain values of any property: It is extremely important this is done carefully and that all development potential is taken into account. HM Revenue and Customs have very strict guidelines and there are reported cases where executors have had to pay significant penalties when this has not been properly dealt with.

We obtain details of all debts and liabilities of the person who has died including their funeral costs.

We complete the necessary HMRC inheritance tax returns.

We apply for any inheritance tax relief such as Agricultural Property Relief, Business Property Relief, spouse exemptions Nil Rate Bands and Residential Nil Rate Bands. We prepare statements for executors.

Sometimes executors or administrators wish to appoint attorneys to act for them in the administration of an estate and we arrange for the appointment of an attorney. Often we act as attorney.

It is necessary to pay any inheritance tax before you obtain a grant of probate which is required to ‘call in’ or sell the assets. We have to arrange for assets within the estate to pay the tax due by releasing funds held in bank accounts. Sometimes it is necessary to arrange an executors loan or to make special arrangements with the deceased person’s stockbrocker.

We make an application for a grant of probate. Sometimes we need to liaise with the Probate Registry to ensure that a grant will be made. We obtain the grant of probate.

Once obtained we use the grant of probate to ‘call in’ the assets. We usually liaise with the executors or beneficiaries of an estate to decide which assets need to be sold and which assets might be transferred to the beneficiaries. Sometimes a careful decision is required as to the tax implications of each potential cause of action.

Enough assets must be sold to:

  • Pay inheritance tax
  • Pay the debts
  • Pay any legacies or gifts in the Will. Often further negotiations with the Revenue are required on the amount of inheritance tax that is payable due to the values of the assets in the estate.

We may need to negotiate with HMRC particularly where there are high value assets involved or the deceased estate has applied for reliefs such as Agricultural Property Relief or Business Property Relief.

An executor who makes a payment to a bankrupt beneficiary can be personally liable so before beneficiaries are paid we can make bankruptcy searches against individual beneficiaries if required.

We transfer any properties to the relevant beneficiaries and arrange for them to be registered at Land Registry.

When a Will includes a Trust, we will advise fully on how that trust can be implemented or wound up depending on the circumstances of each estate.

We prepare (or coordinate with the deceased person’s accountant) all income tax returns up to the date of death and for the administration period.

We prepare final estate accounts to show exactly what was in the estate, what tax was due, what liabilities were paid, and what monies or assets are paid to the beneficiaries.

We can obtain an official ‘clearance certificate’ from HMRC to ensure that all inheritance tax is paid and that the matter is closed.

How long does it take to administer an estate?

Each estate is different. The length of time depends on the amount of work required. We usually suggest its prudent to expect:

  • 6 to 12 months for simple estates
  • 12 to 18 months for more complex estates
  • 12 to 24 months for complicated and more technical estates

These are guidelines only.

WHAT IS IT LIKELY TO COST

Our fees are based on a combination of hourly rates and a fee that’s based on value, complexity and responsibility of the estate we are administering.

Our hourly rates of our solicitors are between £175-£230 plus vat. The value fee is fixed at the outset usually between 0.5% - 1.5% of the gross value of the estate.

Costs can therefore vary depending upon the amount of hours it takes, the type and number of assets involved and the complexity of the issues which arise.

A simple estate might involve a surviving spouse inheriting all the assets. A complicated estate might involve the person dying without a Will, two or more marriages a business and assets abroad. The costs will therefore vary from perhaps two to three thousand pounds to tens of thousands.

TYPICAL COSTS

Every situation varies in complexity but the examples below will give an indicative idea of cost.

A 'SIMPLE' ESTATE

There is a valid Will.

  • A spouse as sole beneficiary
  • One bank
  • One property
  • Premium bonds
  • Some cash ISAs
  • No inheritance tax payable

Our fees may range from £2000 - £5000 + VAT

 

 

A MORE COMPLEX ESTATE

There is a valid Will

  • The second of a couple to die.
  • A house with some land or a large garden.
  • Two banks, or building society accounts.
  • Stocks and shares – discretionary managed by broker.
  • ISAs
  • Some life time gifts
  • Specific gifts in the Will with the residue divided between 2-4 beneficiaries.
  • A detailed inheritance tax account is required.

Our fees may range from £8000 - £20,000 + VAT

A COMPLICATED ESTATE

A valid Will or no Will

  • A number of executors
  • Children and step children
  • A widow/widower
  • Perhaps a long term unmarried partner
  • A farm
  • An ongoing business
  • Life time gifts and trusts
  • Some valuable chattels
  • Rental properties
  • Stocks and shares
  • ISAs
  • Different bank & building society accounts
  • Large number premium bonds
  • Insurance bonds
  • Legacies to a number of individuals and charities
  • A detailed Inheritance tax account required
  • Exceptions or reliefs may need to be applied for
  • Our fees range may be £20k - £40k + VAT

COSTS PAYABLE TO OTHERS

  • Court fees
  • Valuers fees where appropriate
  • Bankruptcy searches (£2 per beneficiary)
  • Statutory advertisements (approx £150) (to protect executors against unknown creditors)
  • Unclaimed asset searches (approx £150)
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    It is clear from the examples above that each estate is different.

    Most clients want us to administer the whole estate for them but some may wish to have advice on different stages. We can discuss the different possibilities with you.

    We therefore would encourage you to make an appointment with Benedict Recordon to discuss the options and the likely fees which may apply to your individual matter.

    What facts may make the administration of an estate more complicated?

    • Farms
    • Trustees
    • Missing share certificates
    • If a Will may/may not be valid
    • If a Will is missing
    • If beneficiaries are missing
    • If executors don’t cooperate
    • the need to be involved in arranging a funeral
    • the need to be involved in distributing chattels
    • the need to be involved in visiting a property
    • the need to be involved in checking/maintaining a property
    • the need to be involved in insuring any unoccupied property
    • Assets outside the UK
    • Business

    • Dealing with capital gains tax during the administration of an estate (property or shares may go up in value after the person dies)
    • Preparing income tax returns (sometimes for years which have been missed by the deceased person)
    • Transferring ISA allowances between spouses
    • Dealing with individual shareholdings not held with a stockbroker
    • Negotiations with HMRC on the amount of inheritance tax payable
    • Executors loans required to pay inheritance tax
    • Claiming relief and exemptions for assets and the detailed history required to do so.