Probate Legal Services

Probate Legal Services: Advice from Probate Solicitors

Not everyone understands what probate is and whether there’s a need to appoint a solicitor for support throughout the process. The probate process has several different steps, some of which you might think would be made easier with the help of a legal expert.

When is probate required?

Probate is needed when the estate is of such a size or the assets within an estate are held in such a way that cashing in that asset or transferring it cannot be made without a Grant of Probate (or Grant of Letters of Administration if there is no valid will) being obtained. The Grant is issued by the Probate Registry and provides proof of authority to act in the estate. Sometimes, even though the law might strictly require Probate, individual asset holders will waive that strict requirement and release funds without it.

When someone has died, there are several things you need to examine to determine if Probate will be needed:

• If the deceased person has financial assets worth more than £5,000 and financial organisations will not release funds without the production of the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. Each financial organisation sets its own threshold for requiring a Grant. It is always worth contacting them to understand their policy.
• If the deceased person owned a property that needs to be sold or transferred to beneficiaries a Grant may be needed.

What is probate?

This is a generic term used to describe the process of applying for formal authority to complete the estate administration of someone who has died, covering both when a valid will is left and where there is no valid will.

Getting help with probate

The process of applying for Probate varies across the UK. It is different for England and Wales from that of Northern Ireland. It is again different for ‘Probate’ in Scotland, where it is not called Probate, but Confirmation.

It can be straightforward to make an application for Probate, although this may not always be the case. This is particularly where tax is involved, where there is no will and those entitled to inherit may be unclear, or if there may be a likely inheritance dispute.

In such cases, we recommend that specialist probate solicitors are used at least to provide that advice, whether on the law of succession, the inheritance itself, or the Inheritance tax position. Their probate services can help save you a lot of time and trouble as well as anxiety and stress where matters are complex and potentially might lead to a family dispute. They can help you as much or as little as you require: simply with getting Probate, or possibly probate and estate matters generally.

What is the process?

The first step in the probate process is to identify whether the deceased person wrote a will and if so, to locate it. If there is a will, then responsibility must be taken by the person(s) referred to as Executors to ensure its contents are delivered. In the absence of a will, it is usually the nearest living relative who will be appointed as their Representative who administers the estate.

Probate is only required if the estate is over a certain value. When you notify banks and building societies that the person has died, they will inform you if they require probate before releasing funds to you. Usually, probate will be required if the person who died owned property, but this will depend on how the property was owned.

To obtain a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration (in England and Wales), you will need to gather full information about the estate – or as accurate as you can be – and complete the necessary forms – PA1P (when there is a Will) or PA1A (when there is no Will). If the estate is large enough that inheritance tax will be payable (for estates valued at more than £325,000), this must be done within a set period of time. In most cases, you must pay Inheritance Tax within six months of the end of the month in which the deceased died. After this period, interest and penalties will be charged on the amount outstanding.​

Once the Grant has been obtained, assets can be gathered from banks and building societies. All debts must be paid before any beneficiaries named in the will can receive their gifts.

Where there are potentially lots of creditors, Statutory Notices should be placed to protect the Administrators of an estate from any claimants that otherwise may have been overlooked. Although Statutory Notices are not a legal requirement, by placing them, the Executor or Administrator will be protected from any personal liability if a creditor comes forward and makes a future claim after an estate has been distributed.

It is possible to carry out probate yourself. If the estate is fairly small, with most of the funds consolidated already by someone who held Power of Attorney for the person who died, and there is no property held in the name of the deceased, this may be something you wish to consider. However, even with a small and simple estate, many people find the amount of time required and the necessary form-filling somewhat daunting. Probate will usually take several months to complete, while larger and more complex estates can take up to or more than a year before everything is completed. Using a solicitor to do this work on your behalf can seem a huge relief.

Get help finding probate solicitors. Here at the National Bereavement Service, we can recommend reputable solicitors who are not only competitively priced but who are compassionate, professional and happy to act on your behalf during your bereavement. Our legal partners maintain high standards, delivered with great sensitivity. In addition, they have transparent fee structures so that you know how much the process will cost from the outset. They’ll explain whether they plan to charge a flat fee based on the value of the estate and the amount of work required, or whether the fees will be more unpredictable due to the complexity of the case.

Solicitor fees and price transparency

Although changes have been made to regulations regarding solicitors’ fees, it can still be hard to find a price online. However, there is a requirement for solicitors to provide a formal quotation for the work they will undertake.

Some solicitors will charge an hourly fee and a small percentage (between 1%-2%) of the gross value of the estate they are dealing with, and will estimate how many hours they believe it will take to conclude the process. This can be costly, so it is important you receive transparency on the expected fees.

Here are some example fees that you should expect to be charged for the work involved in dealing with probate.

If you would like to discuss these in more detail, please call us.

Fee VAT Total
GRANT EXTRACTION Standard £599.00 £119.80 £718.80
GRANT EXTRACTION Plus Property £999.00 £199.80 £1198.80
FULL ADMIN <100k £1800.00 £360.00 £2160.00
FULL ADMIN 100k – 200k £3000.00 £600.00 £3600.00
FULL ADMIN 200k – 300k £3950.00 £790.00 £4740.00
FULL ADMIN 300k – 400k £5250.00 £1050.00 £6300.00
FULL ADMIN 400k – 500k £7500.00 £1500.00 £9000.00
FULL ADMIN 500k – 600k £9000.00 £1800.00 £10800.00

VAT and Disbursements

It’s important that you understand the solicitor’s invoices, so you don’t get an unpleasant surprise when it comes to fees.

In general, solicitors present their fees exclusive of VAT. This means you will need to pay VAT at the current rate (20%) on top of the fee listed.

Solicitors often talk about disbursements. These are fees they must make to third parties to complete the work on your behalf. They should always tell you what the disbursements are for and should only charge you the exact figure they have paid to the third party.

In the case of applying for a Grant of Representation, for example, there will be a disbursement fee of £273 to pay, plus £1.50 per copy of the grant.

There may be additional disbursements, such as fees for transferring or selling shares, conveyancing fees and other costs associated with administering the estate. These should always be detailed in the quotation given to you when you instruct a solicitor.

Probate FAQs

It is perfectly possible and the Government encourages people to use their website to make their own personal application for probate when they can, and where the position is clear.

If you need some more help with how to go about this please contact us.

Usually, there will be a range of probate services offered by a probate specialist. What is needed will vary from person to person and estate to estate. You need to be clear about what service from the legal professional you want and are prepared to pay for.

You may simply wish to get some initial legal advice following death and nothing more. 

You may want help to apply for Probate so you, as the executor or Administrator, can then collect and cash in the assets, pay off outstanding liabilities and debts of the deceased person and then distribute or transfer them to the correct beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of any valid will or intestacy. 

It may be you want a fully comprehensive service completing everything needed to correctly and completely wind up the estate and fully protect you in your role. 

Estate administration is a generic term that covers a whole range of probate services, ranging from the very basic service to the full Rolls Royce service, where every aspect of winding up an estate is provided by the solicitor or legal advisor and everything in between.

We always recommend that you look out for a professional who carries the letters TEP after their name as this indicates that they are specialists in this area of law and can give you the best possible level of service that you need.