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Solicitors and Estate Agents

Southport Office  01704 534034
Ainsdale Office 01704 574144
Churchtown Office 01704 211649     

Authorised & Regulated by The Solicitors Regulation Authority
Member of the Law Society's Family Law Panel
Member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners
Registered No 569492

Cockshott Peck Lewis - Probate Charges

The legal charges for dealing with a person’s estate following a death are calculated mainly by reference to the amount of time that is spent by our solicitors, fee earners and support staff working on all matters relating to the estate.

Our work is charged at an hourly rate the amount of which varies depending on who carries out the work.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority introduced rules in 2018 to ensure that clients are given information regarding the cost of legal services.

When we receive instructions and are given details of the estate we provide our clients with a formal terms of business letter which confirms the hourly charging rate at the time that the instructions are received and provides an estimate of the charges for the work to be undertaken in connection with the estate up to obtaining the grant of probate.  No two estates are the same so an estimate of our fees cannot be provided until the details of the estate are known.  

The estimate of the firm’s charges is exactly that – an estimate.  The charge may be more or less depending on the circumstances that arise during the course of the administration.  If the time charge is likely to be exceeded we normally try to notify our clients as soon as possible that the original estimate needs to be revised.  Our estimates usually provide a range of charges based on an estimate of the lower and the higher number of hours that we expect it to take to deal with the matter.

An exception to this is if we are instructed to deal only with the preparation of the probate documents after receiving from the executors full details of the estate assets and their values.  This is provided that the value of the estate is below the deceased’s inheritance tax allowance so that there is no inheritance tax liability.  No more than five hours work is likely to be required with the result that the charge should not exceed £1,000 plus VAT and disbursements and frequently will be a significantly lower amount.

Disbursements are payments to third parties that need to be paid from the estate in addition to the firm’s charges.  Typical disbursements will be listed later on.

The firm’s charges will depend on the individual circumstances of each estate.  As an example the costs will be relatively modest if there is only one beneficiary, a modest number of assets, no property and no inheritance tax to pay.

At the other end of the range the costs will be higher if there are several beneficiaries, a significant number of assets, one or more properties and inheritance tax to pay.

If there is no will or the estate consists of a large number of shareholdings or properties there are likely to be additional costs that could range significantly depending on the estate and how it is to be dealt with.

Dealing with the sale or transfer of the deceased’s property will be the subject of a separate charge by our conveyancing department.  So too will litigation costs involved in dealing with a disputed probate matter.

The hourly charging rate of the solicitors that deal with probate work including the solicitor directors is currently £230.00 plus VAT.  Routine telephone calls, e-mails and letters in and out are charged in units of 6 minutes so each of such items are charged at £23.00 plus VAT.  Other telephone calls, e-mails and letters are charged for on a time basis.

Our probate executives and personal assistants also deal with probate work.  Our probate executive deals with estates from start to finish subject to the supervision of one of the solicitor directors.  The personal assistants undertake certain areas of the work relating to estates also subject to supervision of the solicitor who has the conduct of the matter.

Our probate administration team is made up of two solicitor directors, one senior solicitor, one probate executive and three solicitor’s personal assistants.  The hourly charging rate of our probate executive is £165.00 plus VAT.

The work that is involved dealing with an estate includes:-

 Time spent during meetings with clients

 Telephone attendances on clients and others

 Drafting documents

 Reading documents

 Researching legal implications where necessary

 Correspondence by post and e-mail (the same charge being applied to e-mails received and sent as to letters received and sent)

 Preparing estate accounts

 Travelling time when it is necessary to attend an appointment out of the office

In addition to the time charge there may also be a value element to the charge.  This is a percentage of the gross value of the estate as the value involved is one measure of the extent of responsibility falling on the firm.  It is calculated following Law Society guidelines taking into account the criteria set out by the Law Society to assess a value element which is considered to be fair and reasonable to all parties having regard to all circumstances of the estate.  When the probate documents are completed we are usually able to provide an estimate of the value element of the charge.  Until that time we do not have full details of the estate assets, value and complexity.

Many modest straight forward estates will not incur a value element.  When a value element is applied it will not be more than 1% of the gross value of the estate excluding the value of the deceased’s home.  The maximum percentage to apply to the deceased’s residence is 0.5%.  The percentage may be higher if solicitors are the executors and can be up to 1.5% of the gross value excluding the residence with 0.75% in respect of the deceased’s residence.

The value element is always carefully considered on completion of the administration of the estate after taking into account all the circumstances and is frequently reduced from the percentages mentioned above.  Although the value element of the charge is normally calculated on completion of the administration of the estate a payment on account of the value element is often made after probate is granted and liquid assets have been realised.

The time that it takes to complete the administration of an estate is difficult to assess as many factors outside the control of this office can influence the time factor.  As an example applications to the Probate Registry for a grant of probate (or a grant of letters of administration in the event of an intestacy) used to take approximately two weeks to be completed by the Probate Registry.  Since the introduction of a new computerised system at the Probate Registry earlier this year that time has increased to approximately eight to ten weeks.

It is necessary to obtain all tax clearances before completing the administration of an estate but that does not necessarily prevent interim distributions being paid to the beneficiaries when funds are available.

The work that the firm can undertake on behalf of executors and administrators can include a full range of service to deal with all matters relating to the estate including, but not limited to, the following:-

 Meeting the executor/administrator to fully explain the procedure

 Helping with the funeral arrangements and if necessary liaising with the undertaker

 Identifying and valuing the estate assets

 Preparing the documents to apply for a grant of probate

 Calculating and arranging payment of inheritance tax

 Communicating with the beneficiaries to inform them of their entitlement including providing residuary beneficiaries with a copy of the will

 Realising the estate assets including arranging sale of property

 Arranging house clearance

 Paying debts, expenses and legacies

 Publishing Trustee Act notices to creditors

 Paying tax arising during the period of administration and providing the residuary beneficiaries with income tax deduction certificates

 Preparing full and detailed estate accounts for approval by the executors and beneficiaries

 Distributing the residue to the beneficiaries in accordance with the approved accounts

Typical disbursements to be added to the firm’s charges are:-

 Probate application fee £155.00

 The fee for additional sealed copies of the grant of probate £1.50

 Land Charges bankruptcy searches £2.00 per beneficiary

 Publication of Trustee Act notices £200.00 - £250.00

 Other charges to third parties such as a house clearance firm, valuation fee and estate agent charges will be ascertained as and when appropriate

The members of the firm dealing with probate matters are:-

 Geoff Cottrell

 Val Hulton

 Wendy Tyson

 Jayne Banks

 Pauline Ball

 Jenna Mawdsley

 Jo Hall