Probate & Estate Administration

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Our costs


Why Wilsons?

Our highly experienced team of probate practitioners, led by solicitors who are members of the Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners, are specialists in the administration of estates.

All of our matters are conducted by a qualified solicitor with support from paralegals and trainee solicitors.

We provide advice on the process of administering estates, assist with discrete stages of the process where required and routinely deal with the full administration process both as professional executors and as the solicitors instructed by the personal representatives.

We have specific expertise in complex matters involving:

  • business and agricultural property relief
  • farms & landed estates
  • foreign assets, beneficiaries, tax affairs and domicile generally
  • charity beneficiaries
  • heritage matters
  • missing beneficiaries
  • complex tax matters
  • negotiations with HM Revenue & Customs
  • problem estates

Key stages and tasks

The work that we are routinely instructed to undertake in the administration of estates includes the following:

  • identifying and contacting the legally appointed executors or potential administrators and the likely beneficiaries
  • where a will exists - considering the actions which will be necessary to satisfy the probate court of the validity of the will and the terms which actually apply.  This could include contacting the person that drafted the will and the witnesses to its execution and preparing affidavits explaining the circumstances in which the will was signed and witnessed
  • where a will does not exist – considering the extent of the family with a view to clarifying who is entitled to apply to administer the estate
  • notifying asset holders of the death and obtaining information regarding the assets and their values. 
  • obtaining market values of properties and their contents.
  • clarifying the availability of any agricultural and or business property reliefs and the extent of development opportunities.
  • obtaining details of the debts owed by the deceased at death and all funeral costs
  • considering reliefs and exemptions for inheritance tax which may apply
  • advising on the implications of discretionary trusts, their effect on the inheritance tax liability and actions which could be undertaken to maximise the reliefs and exemptions claimed
  • completing the relevant HM Revenue & Customs inheritance tax forms including preparing tax calculations
  • preparing the relevant oath for executors or administrators
  • liaising with asset holders regarding release of funds to pay inheritance tax prior to the application for the grant, to include releasing funds from accounts, liaising with stockbrokers for the encashment of investments in an investment portfolio or dealing with paperwork for an executors' loan.
  • submitting the application to the Probate Court and dealing with any queries raised
  • obtaining the grant of representation and advising when it has issued
  • payment of debts
  • identification of items specifically gifted and transferring them to the named beneficiaries.
  • discussing with the executors and residuary beneficiaries the transfer or encashment of holdings in any investment portfolio and transfer or sale of property involving consideration of the capital gains tax situation of the estate and the beneficiaries
  • dealing with any assent of properties to trustees or to beneficiaries and registering at the Land Registry
  • collecting all the estate assets, including closure of bank and building society accounts, encashment of premium bonds, dealing with company registrars to arrange the transfer or sale of shareholdings etc
  • negotiation with H M Revenue & Customs and potentially the District Valuer to finalise the property values to finalise the figures on which inheritance tax is calculated
  • arranging payment of any tax payable
  • undertaking bankruptcy searches for individual beneficiaries and arranging payment of legacies
  • drafting documents to wind up discretionary trusts where this is the agreed way forward
  • preparation of income tax returns for the administration period and date of death if applicable
  • preparation of estate income certificates for any beneficiaries receiving estate income
  • preparation of the estate accounts as an ongoing process

What will be required in my matter and how long will it take?

The work required to administer each estate varies significantly. No two estates are the same.

The amount of work required depends on the wishes of the person who has died, the extent of the assets and the work required to value, realise and distribute those assets. By way of guidance:

  • for simple estates where no property is involved it typically takes 6 to 12 months to fully complete the whole of the administration
  • for moderately complex estates it typically takes 1 to 2 years to fully complete the whole of the administration
  • for complex estates involving property, trusts and complex taxation issues it will usually take more than 2 years to fully complete the whole of the administration

The time taken can be less, but it can also be considerably more.


How much will it cost?

Our fees are payable from the estate, not by the executors or administrators personally.

They are based on hourly rates which reflect the experience, skills and qualification of the person conducting the work. The biographies for our team members set out their individual experience and qualification. Our hourly rates range from £100 to £400 per hour plus VAT. 

The cost of any matter will be dictated by the hourly rate and the amount of time required to follow your instructions.

The actual cost of administering an estate will therefore vary significantly depending on the wishes of the person who has died, the extent of the assets and the work required to value, realise and distribute those assets.

The cost of administering an estate for a person with complicated tax affairs who did not leave a will but owned significant assets both in the UK and abroad will be significantly more than those of a person who has died with a valid will leaving everything to a surviving partner.

The cost can be as little as a few thousand pounds. It is however not unusual in the case of complex estates for those costs to be measured in tens of thousands of pounds.


Factors that will determine your cost estimate or fixed fee

The following list is not exhaustive, but is intended to provide an idea of the factors that may affect the length of time that it takes to administer an estate and our likely costs:

  • the extent to which you intend to deal with part of the process yourself
  • alterations to wills affecting validity,
  • missing will
  • badly drafted will
  • the lack of a  will
  • missing or deceased executors or beneficiaries
  • capacity issues relating to executors and/or beneficiaries
  • conflict between executors
  • conflict between executors and beneficiaries
  • the need to register death and arrange a funeral
  • the need to visit property to collect valuables and paperwork
  • arranging unoccupied property insurance
  • missing share certificates
  • research required to claim reliefs and exemptions for inheritance tax
  • assets held outside of the UK
  • existing trust funds in which the deceased has an interest
  • capital gains tax considerations on sale of assets in the estate
  • existing conditionally exempt property held by the deceased and claims to conditionally exempt items and the creation of heritage maintenance funds
  • dealing with the sale or transfer of any property in the estate
  • revaluing assets and dealing with appropriations
  • advice on discretionary trusts
  • negotiations with HM Revenue & Customs on the inheritance tax liability
  • preparing and filing administration period income tax returns
  • the existence of business interests
  • whether you want us to prepare estate accounts detailing the assets and liabilities of the estate and all transactions thereafter until the estate is distributed

Examples of fees

To provide you with an idea of our likely fees we have set out some examples below.

More straightforward probate
In circumstances involving:

  • a valid original will with no issues about its condition
  • one property registered at the Land Registry in the sole name of the deceased with no mortgage
  • one bank with no more than two accounts in the sole name of the deceased which may or may not be ISA accounts
  • some premium bonds and savings certificates held with National Savings & Investments
  • no other assets either solely or jointly owned with the spouse or anyone else
  • a spouse as the sole beneficiary
  • there is no inheritance tax payable and the executors do not need to submit a full inheritance tax account to HM Revenue & Customs

our fees might be expected to be in the range of £1,500 to £8,000 plus VAT and disbursements (as described below) to obtain the grant of probate and administer the estate thereafter.

Moderately complex probate
In circumstances involving:

  • the deceased being a widower
  • a will prepared by solicitors which has no issues regarding its validity and which contains specific gifts and cash legacies and then leaves 50% of residue to distant relatives and the remaining 50% to named charities
  • two executors
  • a large house in the country with 25 acres of land
  • 2 accounts with one bank and 3 accounts with different building society accounts
  • stocks and shares managed by a stockbroker
  • lifetime gifts made by the deceased which need to be investigated and quantified
  • the specific gifts and cash legacies being to 5 individuals and all being free of inheritance tax
  • the estate is estimated to be of a value where inheritance tax is payable, exemptions may be available and the executors will need to submit a full inheritance tax account to HM Revenue & Customs

our fees might be expected to be in the range of £12,000 to £22,000 plus VAT and disbursements (as described below) to obtain the grant of probate and administer the estate thereafter.

Complex probate
In circumstances involving:

  • a will where it contains alterations in pen which have not been initialled by the deceased or the witnesses
  • three executors who live in different areas of the country
  • the deceased being a widower but living with a long-term partner
  • the deceased having 3 children by marriage
  • a dispute between the long term partner and the children
  • there being a number of properties one of which is rented to a business of which the deceased is a partner
  • there being a large number of bank and building society accounts some of which require identification
  • some valuable chattels
  • complex lifetime gifts made by the deceased which need to be investigated and quantified plus some gifts were made from surplus income rather than capital
  • stocks and shares which are all held in certificated form and there is no stockbroker with some of the share certificates missing and dividend cheques being uncashed
  • one or more trusts which need to be aggregated for the purposes of the inheritance tax calculation
  • a large holding of premium bonds
  • legacies to 10 individuals and 5 charities (some of which were added in pen) with the residuary estate left on discretionary trusts
  • the estate is estimated to be of a value where inheritance tax is payable, exemptions may be available and the executors will need to submit a full inheritance tax account to HM Revenue & Customs

our fees might be expected to be in the range of £25,000 to £45,000 plus VAT and disbursements (as described below) to obtain the grant of probate and administer the estate.

Disbursements - Costs payable to third parties
Disbursements are costs related to your matter that are payable to third parties and are not included in our fee estimates above. The disbursements normally payable include:

  • the court fee payable when applying for a grant of representation – this is currently £155 plus 50p for each office copy requested but is due to be increased shortly and will be banded depending on the value of the estate
  • the commissioners fee for swearing of the oath being £5 plus £2 per attachment (per executor)
  • bankruptcy-only Land Charges Department searches (£2 per beneficiary)
  • the fees payable for s27 Trustee Act notices placed in the London Gazette and a local newspaper to protect personal representatives against unexpected claims from unknown creditors – estimated at £170

Wilsons' fees generally

It can be seen from these examples that the exact cost of administering an estate can be very difficult to predict and will depend on the exact circumstances.

It may be that you would prefer to do some of the work yourself and instruct us on issues with which you would like help.

It may be that you would like to agree fees for stages of the process.

You might prefer to agree a fixed fee to avoid uncertainty over the fees that might eventually be incurred.

For all of these reasons and rather than relying on these examples given above we strongly recommend that you contact Alison Morris or Kathryn Anderson on 01722 412 412 or enquiries@wilsonsllp.com to obtain an indication of the likely costs of dealing with your matter based upon your unique circumstances.