Probate is the legal and financial process involved in dealing with the property, money & possessions of a person who has died. Where there is a will, the person responsible for dealing with this process is the appointed executor who will usually need to apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate. If a person dies without a will, it will usually be up to a spouse or family member to apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration.
From our offices in Cornwall, RRL provide an unrivalled combination of legal specialists, accountants and chartered tax advisers to assist you through the Probate process. We can ensure that all possible tax exemptions and reliefs are utilised and that available planning opportunities are identified.
You can view the profiles of our Probate team here.
The cost of dealing with Probate can often depend on the complexity of the estate and the level of assistance that is required. We offer the option of a fixed fee service or for charges to be calculated on an hourly rate basis.
The usual process for dealing with a standard estate broadly follows these steps:
- Initial meeting
We would meet with you to look at the will or how the estate passes on intestacy, the assets and liabilities of the estate, to provide initial advice and to discuss our fees. We would then send to you our letter of engagement, confirming the work to be undertaken and clear costs information.
- Valuing the assets & liabilities
We would contact the various banks, building societies and other financial institutions to confirm and value the assets. Professional valuations may be required for property and shareholdings. We would also write to known creditors and utility companies to identify the liabilities.
- Prepare an Inheritance Tax account
Whether or not an estate is taxable, it is necessary to complete an account which summarises the assets and liabilities as at the date of death. If the estate is not taxable, in the majority of cases, a basic account can be completed. If Inheritance Tax is due, it must be paid at this stage.
- Application for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration
A Statement of Truth together with a receipt from HMRC or the simplified Inheritance Tax Account is submitted to the Probate Registry. The Grant should then be issued after a period of up to 10 weeks.
- Collecting in the estate assets
Following receipt of the Grant of Probate, official copies are sent to the various asset holders with signed authorities to arrange for encashment or transfer.
- Settling debts and tax
When money is available, we can arrange to settle the estate’s bills and finalise the tax position.
- Preparation of final estate account
You would receive an easy to understand summary of the financial history of the estate for approval.
- Distributing the estate
The final payments would be made to the ultimate beneficiaries of the estate.
How much does it cost to apply for Probate?
During Probate some of the following payments to third parties may be required from the estate:
- Probate Registry fee – £155 + £1.50 per copy
- Notices to creditors – £155 to £200
- Valuation fees for property, personal possessions and shares
- Conveyancing and estate agent fees if selling property
- Bankruptcy searches for beneficiaries
- Insurance premiums
RRL’s charges will be based on the complexity of the estate and the amount of work you would like us to carry out. The complexity of the estate is dependent on various factors, including the number of assets, foreign assets, business interests, significant gifts made prior to death, Inheritance Tax to calculate and reliefs and exemptions to be applied for.
Where estates are complex, HMRC will often make enquiries about assets and query valuations. RRL provides a unique and free fee protection policy to all taxable estates, providing protection from any additional costs that have to be incurred in negotiating with HMRC. We see this as a unique and exceptional benefit of our service, in addition to us having the tax expertise to competently deal with any HMRC enquiry.
At the outset of the matter, RRL will provide you with an option of either:
- an upfront fixed fee calculated on the likely work required; or
- an hourly rate (currently £195 + VAT) with an estimate of our costs based on the likely time required. Our hourly rate is calculated to reflect the range of expertise and experience within our team. As there is one rate across the team, this enables us to provide accurate estimates at the outset.
Grant only service
Our Grant only service is only available for estates that are not taxable to Inheritance Tax and where the executor provides us with all of the information required to complete the probate paperwork.
- Where a simplified Inheritance Tax account is submitted – £950 + VAT
- Where a full Inheritance Tax account is submitted – £2,450 + VAT
Full estate administration service
This involves completing all of the administration steps identified above.
Straightforward estates (IHT 205)
For the administration of a straightforward estate, we would estimate needing to spend between 10 to 15 hours at an hourly rate of £195 + VAT. Our overall costs would be likely to be between £1,950 + VAT and £2,925 + VAT.
We would consider an estate straightforward on the basis that the estate is not subject to Inheritance Tax, does not require a full Inheritance Tax account to be submitted to HMRC and there is not a large number of assets to administer.
More complex estates (IHT400)
This would include estates with one or more of the following factors:
- A large number of assets, including properties and investments.
- A complicated will with a large number of beneficiaries or the creation of a trust.
- Ambiguities in the will.
- Business or farming interests.
- A full Inheritance Tax account is required and there is an Inheritance Tax liability.
- A dispute has arisen or a claim is made against the estate.
- There is no will and a genealogist’s report (family tree) is required and beneficiaries need to be traced.
- Dealing with the Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax position for the tax year to the date of death and during the administration period.
In providing our upfront fixed fee or an estimate of our charges at an hourly rate, we would consider the number of complex factors and the likely number of hours required to complete everything. More complex estates may take between 20 to 50 hours to complete and our overall fees may be between £3,900 + VAT and £9,750 + VAT.
We work as efficiently as possible to complete the administration of the estate. However, some factors are outside of our control such as delays at the Probate Registry or with HMRC.
We would aim to complete a Grant only application within three months.
The full administration of a straightforward estate can take up to twelve months but it is possible for smaller estates to be completed in a shorter timescale.
We would look to give you our best estimate as to timescale at the outset of the matter and we could let you know if any other factors (such as disputes or foreign assets) may affect how quickly everything can be finalised.