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Dealing with the personal affairs of someone who has died is often a mixture of difficult emotions and frustration. Sorting out an estate takes time and can be extremely complex.
As an executor or administrator, you are personally responsible for your actions and often control assets of significant value. It is therefore important that you understand your role and the probate and estate administration process. Otherwise, you could become personally liable if the estate is not administered correctly. At a minimum, it is a good idea to obtain some independent legal advice at the outset, so that you are aware of what is involved.
How can our probate solicitors help?
Our team of experts can take the pressure off you by ensuring the estate is administered efficiently and with compassion, understanding and professionalism.
We are very happy to deal with the estate administration from start to finish for you. Otherwise, we can offer probate advice and assist on any particular aspect, from inheritance tax advice to help with practicalities such as recommending valuers and estate agents for selling a property.
The work our probate lawyers and advisors would typically deal with as part of the estate administration would be:
- Finding out the full details of:
- the assets and liabilities of the estate;
- jointly owned properties;
- relevant lifetime gifts;
- interests in any trust;
- completing the necessary formalities to apply for and obtain the Grant of Representation;
- dealing with any inheritance tax payable (including advice on available reliefs and exemptions to keep tax liabilities to a minimum) and consideration where appropriate of the possibilities of a deed of variation to change the distribution of the estate or to save tax;
- dealing with any legacies;
- considering income and capital gains tax positions before and after death;
- collecting in the assets of the estate, discharging the liabilities and transferring the net estate, with accounts and tax certificates.
- dealing with any land or buildings, whether by sale or transfer. (On request, our property team will send a separate estimate of our fees for this work.)
Who do we help?
- Executors and administrators
- Business and landowners
Why choose our probate solicitors?
Whether you need a little assistance and advice along the way, or you would like us to take the burden off your shoulders completely, we are here to help.
We offer competitive fixed fees for estates that are simple and straightforward, but our team is also highly experienced in handling complicated estates with difficult tax and trust issues.
In addition, we have an International Private Client team with considerable expertise in legal matters where offshore assets are involved or where UK assets form part of the estate of a non-resident. Find out more on our International Estates page.
How long does probate administration take?
It is always difficult to predict how long it will take to complete the administration of an estate.
Our usual experience is that even the simplest estates will usually take approximately six months. Most estates will commonly take between nine and twelve months.
If there are difficulties, for example, assets which cannot be realised quickly, or where the valuation is uncertain and figures have to be agreed with HMRC, the administration can take longer than twelve months.
While we endeavour to progress the administration of the estate as quickly as we can, we are dependent on responses from HMRC, from those valuing assets, and from those providing us with information which we need to ask for.
We will always keep you updated and explain the steps that need to be taken.
The probate & estate administration process
What are personal representatives?
A personal representative is either an executor or an administrator. An executor is named in a will. If there is no will or the named executors in the will cannot act, an administrator (usually a close relative) is appointed. Executors and administrators have the same duties. Here we refer to both as personal representatives or PRs.
The personal representatives’ job – the first steps
The PRs’ first job (once funeral arrangements are in place) is to identify and value all the assets and debts of the estate. They may have to obtain formal valuations of shares, property and personal effects, and must find out what balances are held at banks or building societies. They must check what, if any, debts are owed.
The Grant of Representation / Grant of Probate
Once the PRs have ascertained all the assets and liabilities, they will usually need to apply for a Grant of Representation. This is a court order confirming the validity of any will and giving the PRs full powers to deal with the estate. There are different types of Grant, depending on the circumstances. The Grant is known as a Grant of Probate if the named executors in the will are making the application or a Grant of Letters of Administration if administrators are applying.
Formalities for obtaining the Grant
The PRs must sign the relevant probate application confirming that they will administer the estate correctly, put the interests of the beneficiaries before their own, and account to the beneficiaries for all the assets of the estate. The PRs will also have to complete an Inheritance Tax account giving details of all assets and debts. If the estate is sufficiently large, the PRs must calculate the amount of inheritance tax payable and they will usually have to pay at least some of this before the Grant can be obtained.
Administering the estate
Before the Grant of Representation is obtained, most assets of the estate are usually frozen, although banks and building societies will often release funds to allow funeral expenses and inheritance tax to be paid. The Grant allows the PRs to close bank or building society accounts, sell or transfer shares or property and deal with all the other assets. Once they have sufficient funds, the PRs must pay any debts or other expenses, and any legacies given by a will. Usually, the PRs will also need to finalise the deceased’s lifetime tax. If inheritance tax has to be paid, the PRs may have to negotiate with HMRC on the values of assets such as houses, land and family businesses.
Even the administration of a simple estate may take several months. During this “period of administration” further income tax and capital gains tax liabilities often arise. The PRs may need to complete tax returns for the period of administration and provide beneficiaries with details for their personal tax returns.
Finally, the PRs must prepare accounts of all they have done and pay or transfer what is left in the estate to the beneficiaries.
Our estate administration fees
The following fees apply when all assets are in the UK.
Obtaining a UK Grant of Probate excluding full estate administration
Our fee for obtaining a Grant of Representation (Probate/Letters of Administration), to exclude full estate administration will be charged on a fixed fee basis when possible, depending on whether or not the estate is subject to Inheritance Tax (IHT) and whether a simple IHT Return can be completed or whether a full IHT Account needs to be completed:
Non-taxable estates where there is a will
Where no IHT is payable and a simple IHT Return can be submitted, then our fixed fee will be within the range of £1,000-£1,500 +VAT depending on the complexity of the estate.
If there is no IHT payable but a full account needs to be submitted then the fee then our fee will be within the range of £1,500-£2,000 +VAT.
These fees are on the basis that we are provided with full details of all assets and liabilities in the estate and that our involvement is limited to preparing the necessary papers to lead to the Grant of Probate.
Taxable estates where there is a will
Where IHT is payable and the deceased left a will, then our fee will be within the range of £2,000-£2,500 + VAT depending on the complexity of the estate. Again, this is on the basis that we are provided with full details of all assets and liabilities in the estate and that our involvement is limited to preparing the necessary papers to lead to the Grant of Probate.
Should you require assistance with ongoing communications with HMRC then we will charge our time for communicating with them and advising you of our hourly rates.
Should you require assistance with estate IHT planning/mitigation, deeds of variation, income/capital gains tax compliance, transfers of land, and any other “ad hoc” estate administration matters, then we will charge on a “time spent” basis in accordance with our published hourly rates. We will advise you in advance of the likely time and fees.
Full estate administration (UK) fees
Our fees in connection with the administration of your estate will be considered at the relevant time, based on the complexity of your estate, for example, taking into consideration whether a full IHT is required, the number of assets involved and whether there are any complicating factors.
We do not charge a premium for the administration of an estate where LA partners are named as your executor(s).
We do not charge a “value element” in connection with our estate administration services.
Our fees are calculated based on the hourly rates applicable at the relevant time and which currently range from £60-£275 + VAT (Bournemouth) and £60-£325 + VAT (London). Details of our current hourly charge-out rates will be included in our letter of engagement with you, but do ask if you require further detail.
We delegate work so that it is dealt with at the appropriate level. More junior members of our team deal with routine matters in connection with the administration of your estate and our more experienced fee earners and partners supervise the administration generally and deal with any technical legal or tax planning aspects.
If there is a continuing trust requiring administration then there will be ongoing fees after the administration of your estate has concluded.
We have a very experienced team of trust administrators who deal with routine aspects of the administration of trusts and are supervised by partners and senior fee earners. Again, where possible we offer a fixed annual fee in connection with trust administration.
We have a large team of experienced professionals including solicitors, a Chartered Legal Executive with Probate Practice Rights, trust and estate practitioners, chartered tax advisers and tax technicians.
We have three partners (members of Lester Aldridge LLP), who supervise our probate and estate administration services:
Richard Fairbairn – Richard is based in our London office and was admitted as a solicitor on 01/07/1978
Kurt Lee – Kurt is based in our Bournemouth office and was admitted as a solicitor on 01/03/2010. Kurt also is a Trust and Estate Practitioner (TEP) (a full member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) and is a Chartered Tax Adviser.
Oliver Phipps – Oliver is based in our Bournemouth office and was admitted as a solicitor on 03/05/2011. Oliver’s focus on the administration of estates with assets located in multiple jurisdictions. To complement his specialism, Oliver is a practising notary public.
Solicitor fee earners
In addition to our 3 partners we have 2 solicitors in our Private Client Team dealing with UK estate administration:
Karmen Ko – based in our London office and was admitted as a solicitor on 15/02/2012
Parisa Jones – is based in our Bournemouth office and was admitted as a solicitor on 01/03/2012. Parisa is a Trust and Estate Practitioner (TEP) (a full member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) and a Full Accredited Member of Solicitors for the Elderly.
Non-solicitor fee earners
Melanie Wilkins – based in our Bournemouth office and is a Chartered Legal Executive and CILEx Probate Practitioner. Melanie is also a Trust and Estate Practitioner (TEP) (a full member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) and an associate member of Solicitors for the Elderly.
Richard Light – is a Director based in our Bournemouth office and is a Chartered Tax Adviser with over 20 years’ experience.
Mark Chant – is a Trust & Tax Advisor based in our Bournemouth office and is qualified as a Tax Technician (ATT). Mark is also an Affiliate Member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and has over 20 years’ experience.
Mark Barnaby – is a Trust & Tax Advisor based in our Bournemouth office and is a qualified Tax Technician (ATT). Mark is also an Affiliate Member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners with over 20 years’ experience.
Victoria Chant – is a Trust Administration Manager based in our Bournemouth office and is an associate member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners with nearly 20 years’ experience.
Olivia Singer – is a Paralegal based in our Bournemouth office.
Description and cost of likely disbursements
Throughout the administration of an estate, a number of expenses are likely to be incurred including:
|Description of expense||When likely to be payable||Cost|
|S27 notices||During the course of administration||Approximately £180|
|Bankruptcy Search Fees||During the course of administration but typically at the outset of the matter and/or when distributions are made to beneficiaries||£2 plus VAT for each search required|
|Probate court fees||When applying for the grant of representation (Probate or Letters of Administration)||£155 plus £1.50 for each office copy|
We will do our best to arrange for these expenses to be met from the assets of the estate but where this is not possible (for example where no funds are available before a grant of representation is obtained), we may have to ask either you or a residuary beneficiary to put us in funds. Funding inheritance tax can be a particular problem in some estates, and we shall discuss this with you if this is relevant.
VAT is payable in addition to our charges and certain expenses.
Key Stages – Estate Administration
The administration of an estate typically falls into three stages:
1. Information gathering/pre Grant of Representation
Estate administration tends to be “front-loaded” and depending on the level of support you require, and whether LA members are named as executors, can include the following:
- registration of the death;
- securing any property and arranging insurance;
- liaising with family members/beneficiaries in connection with urgent matters;
- overseeing the organisation of the funeral;
- ascertaining full details of:
- the assets and liabilities of the estate;
- jointly owned properties;
- relevant lifetime gifts; and
- interests in any trust.
2. Applying for the Grant of Representation / Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration
Preparing the IHT Account and relevant probate application to lead to the Grant of Representation.
3. Dealing with post Grant of Representation matters
- Dealing with any inheritance tax payable and consideration where appropriate of the possibilities of a deed of variation to change the distribution of the estate or to save tax (please note, additional fees will apply for this service and we will notify you before undertaking this work);
- Dealing with any legacies;
- Considering income and capital gains tax positions before and after death;
- Collecting in the assets of the estate, discharging the liabilities and transferring the net estate, with accounts and tax certificates.
Services not included
Our estate administration fees do not include fees for dealing with any land or buildings, whether by sale or transfer. (On request, our property team will send a separate estimate of our fees for this work.)
Frequently Asked Questions
A Grant of Probate is a particular type of grant of representation issued by the Probate Registry. It confirms that the executor(s) named in the will have legal authority to act in the administration of the estate. The executors are therefore allowed to deal with the assets. The grant of probate also proves that the will is valid.
A person who is appointed as an executor or who is eligible to act as an administrator does not have to act. He can refuse the appointment, either on a permanent or temporary basis. However, once a personal representative has begun to act in the administration of an estate, he cannot withdraw without applying to the court.
Only professionals who administer estates can charge for acting as personal representatives, but all personal representatives are entitled to recover their reasonable out of pocket expenses. All tax liabilities and administration expenses (including valuation fees and solicitors’ charges) are met from the estate.
If a person dies without leaving a valid will, they are said to have died ‘intestate’. The estate is then distributed in accordance with the laws of intestacy, which are rules setting out who should benefit from the deceased’s estate. In this situation, we can advise you on who is entitled to apply for the Grant and how the estate should be distributed.