Legal Services – our fees explained

Some law firms charge a percentage of the value of the overall estate and for time spent on files. At Purely Probate our charging rates are simpler, lower and more transparent.

We have two methods for charging on probate files: the first is a fixed-fee quotation and the second is on a time-recorded basis. If the file is charged on a time record basis we tell you the amount of time we anticipate we will spend.

Probate

For fixed-fee quotations, we calculate how much time we anticipate we will spend on your file. We consider several factors including: whether the estate is taxable; if the deceased made gifts of more than £3,000 pa in the last 7 years; the number of legacies and residuary beneficiaries; the number of investments, and whether the deceased owned any property.

The overall size of the estate is considered but is not of itself a major factor.

When we have worked out how much time we are likely to spend, we will add a small contingency to cover unexpected developments, then calculate our costs at the hourly rates of £200 per hour plus VAT for solicitors and £160 per hour plus VAT for paralegals and other support staff.  We aim to save our clients’ money by using paralegals (who have relevant experience and training) for less technical elements of the work, and solicitors who specialise in private client work where their expertise is needed. We also include some time for general administration – carrying out ID checks, opening a bank account, etc

For a time-recorded matter, we use the same process to calculate how long we are likely to take.  For example, we may decide that this probate matter will take between 7 and 10 hours to complete, which at £200.00 per hour would be between £1,400.00 to £2,000.00 plus VAT.

We usually offer our clients a choice of time recording or fixed price, but sometimes an estate is too complex, or there are too many unknown factors for us to offer a fixed price.  Even if we are charging on a time recorded basis, we estimate the time we anticipate we will take to complete the work and will inform the client if this is likely to be exceeded.

Examples of fees charged

  • We assist with obtaining a grant of probate only. The clients provide the valuations of assets, sell the assets once probate is granted and distribute them in accordance with the terms of the Will.  We would charge on a time record basis.  Typical time is 2 1/2 hours for an estate which is not taxable (£500 plus VAT) or 4-5 hours for a taxable estate (£800-£1,000 plus VAT)
  • Father died leaving everything to mother, except some small items which will be given to the beneficiaries by the executors. No inheritance tax was due.  The estate value was £400,000 with a range of assets (6 different asset classes) premium bonds and property to be transferred into a trust. Fixed price £1,800 plus VAT and disbursements.
  • Father died in 2015 leaving everything to mother; mother then died. The estate value is £1m and there is inheritance tax to pay, although we were able to claim the transferable nil rate band and the residence nil rate band.  There was a wide range of assets and a property.  There was 1 executor and 4 residuary beneficiaries receiving slightly different shares.  We charged £7,500 plus VAT and disbursements.
  • Estate value £2.7m. Complex estate with valuable artworks, some left to charity.  8 bequests of cash (some to foreign beneficiaries) and artworks, several different asset classes, including 2 properties, one took several months to sell, and eventually at a lower price than the original estimate. Negotiated 36% rate of inheritance tax (not usual 40%) due to gifts of artworks to a museum, advising on and varying the Will to make it more tax effective, reclaiming overpaid tax from HMRC. Because the estate was complex we did not agree to a fixed price, but the total was £14,000plus VAT and disbursements.

Foreign Probates: fees charged

These are normally cases where the deceased did not live in the UK but had assets in the UK when he/she died.

Examples of fees charged

  • Deceased died domiciled in Australia with an Australian Will and one asset in the UK worth about £90,000. Executor provided valuations and dealt with the closure of the bank account.  Our work limited to obtaining a UK Grant and obtaining relevant information from Australian lawyer.  Fee £1,000. No VAT was payable because the Executor was domiciled outside the European Union.
  • Deceased died domiciled in the USA. Tax is payable on the UK estate.  An estimate for our fee to complete the application for the UK estate and obtain Grant is £2,000.  No VAT was payable because the Executor was domiciled outside the European Union.
  • Deceased died domiciled in Portugal with 2 Wills made in Portuguese, one dealing with Portuguese estate and one homemade Will purporting to deal with UK estate. Needed protracted enquiries with Portuguese lawyers to understand the validity of Wills before applying for UK Probate and an application for an Order from the Probate Registry before the Grant could be issued.  UK assets limited to funds in one bank account, which was subsequently dealt with by client.  Our fee charged on a time record basis was £1,700.

VAT

All charges other than disbursements are subject to VAT at 20% except probates where the executors live outside the EU when no VAT is payable.

Disbursements

The disbursements are typically:

  • the probate fee: £155 plus 50p for each extra copy of the grant of probate required – subject to change by HMCTS at anytime
  • bankruptcy searches: £2 each
  • ID checks – see extras
  • fees for getting office copy entries from the land registry: £3 each
  • Fees for valuation of assets and selling shares: various

Extras

  • We use an independent service to carry out ID searches – this saves our clients having to produce original passports etc. We charge £5 plus VAT per search
  • Foreign currency transfers. If our clients agree we can use a currency exchange service, which gives better exchange rates than the banks.  We charge £50 plus VAT to use the service; the banks will deduct their own charges, normally around £15 per transfer.
  • We do not charge extra for electronic transfers, but we do charge £25 per cheque issued to beneficiaries of Wills.

The services that are included in the price and likely timescales for key stages.

  • Valuing the known assets of the estate and making reasonable enquiries into other assets owned by the deceased;
  • Ascertaining any liabilities of the estate and settling these once funds are available;
  • Preparing the paperwork required for an application for a Grant to the estate including preparing the inheritance tax return and corresponding with HMRC regarding the payment of tax;
  • Encashing the assets in the estate or transferring them to the beneficiaries;
  • Preparation of full, detailed accounts showing the estate transactions;
  • Completing due diligence checks for beneficiaries, if required, and contacting them regarding the progress of the administration;
  • Distributing the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will;
  • Advice on how to safeguard your position as executor, including arranging statutory notices if required

Timescale:

In the case of a simple probate where we can get valuations of all assets quickly, we may be able to apply for probate within 3-4 weeks of the original instruction.  Where there is no tax to pay Probate takes about 2 weeks to obtain once the application has been sent in; typically, 3-4 weeks where tax is payable. It will then take at least 6 weeks to sell the assets and distribute to beneficiaries and can be much more if for example, a property takes time to sell.  If inheritance tax is payable, HMRC advises that executors should expect them to take at least until the anniversary of the death to confirm that all the tax has been paid.

If a matter is urgent (e.g. because of a property sale) we will take whatever steps we can to speed up the process.

Wills

We take your instructions, prepare draft Wills for approval and take you through the process of correctly signing the Wills.

For simple single Wills, we charge £250 plus VAT, for couples £400 plus VAT. If there is a property trust within the Wills we charge £550 plus VAT. If the Will is more complex, the person making the Will is of high net worth (and therefore the tax implication and advice we can provide can make a significant difference), or the clients have more complicated requirements we will charge for time spent, but we will provide an estimate before proceeding.

Monitoring costs

Work in progress calculations is carried out at the beginning of each month, at which point we check that our estimates and quotations are still appropriate. Where we have quoted on a time record basis we will advise our clients if the time spent is likely to exceed our estimate.

Fixed price or time record?

With fixed cost, we will build a contingency into our quote. We will also exclude certain things, which will be set out in our client care letter.  For example, we exclude the time spent responding to HMRC if it decides to investigate the amount of inheritance tax due.

We are very happy to discuss each option with you. Many clients prefer the certainty of a fixed fee.

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