Probate

OUR PROBATE AND ADMINISTRATION SERVICE

Bereavement is a very difficult time, and we are pleased to offer a comprehensive Probate and Administration Service tailored to meet your individual situation.

 

Our solicitor specialising in this area is Naomi Pinder and she has over 25 years of experience in helping clients in relation to both planning for the future (making Wills, Trusts and Lasting Powers of Attorney) and administering estates after a person has died. We are used to dealing with estates where there is a Will and also where the person has died without leaving a legally valid Will.

 

Naomi, who is a fully accredited member of Solicitors for the Elderly which is a professional body of lawyers who specialise in this area of the law, and her secretary Jennifer Clark will always be pleased to help. We will be happy to answer any questions during your case.

 

You can contact us by telephone (0151 428 2472) or e-mail (enquiries@chigginslaw.co.uk).

 

Working Together

 

We are dedicated to providing an efficient and cost-effective service for clients. An issue regarding legal costs is when they are unknown because they are measured in accordance with the time which is reasonably spent in dealing with the matter.

 

We are accustomed to discussing legal costs with clients so there are no surprises at the end of the case. We approach costs in a matter-of-fact manner, and we take care that clients understand how costs will work. The costs and expenses are called testamentary expenses which means that they are paid from the person’s estate.

 

The exception to this rule is if the estate does not have sufficient funds to pay the costs, for example the estate comprises the house or if it is insolvent. In this case the client is required to pay the costs as a matter of straightforward contract law. This position is the same as applies to funeral costs.

 

It is important to us that the service provides good value for money, and this may involve collaborative working. This means that the family take responsibility for certain things such as dealing with the household bills, clearing the house or contacting the banks. There is no pressure at all for families to do this and it may not be possible for all sorts of reasons, for example the family don’t live locally. We will discuss this with the family.

 

In relation to costs, if the family take responsibility for certain things, it means that there is less work for us, and this will reduce the costs.

 

It must be emphasised that each client’s situation is different, and we will take time to talk so that there is understanding and agreement about the service and costs.

 

Costs

 

The cost of obtaining the Grant of Representation (this term covers cases where the deceased left a Will and where the deceased died without leaving a Will) is usually £850 plus VAT. This service is self-contained, and you will then use the Grant to administer the estate.

 

This service covers spending up to two hours with clients; obtaining the Will; reading and explaining the Will; explaining inheritance rules where there is no Will (intestacy); receiving information about the nature and extent of the estate; preparing the Inheritance Tax Return in IHT 205 (in the case where the death is before 1 January 2022); the application forms; preparing legal notices to other executors; any other matters which will be relevant to the case and which will be discussed and agreed; and finally making the application and letting you have the Grant.

 

If the nature or size of the estate means that the full Inheritance Tax return is required, our fees are £1,500 plus VAT. This reflects the increased amount of work involved.

 

Disbursements

 

These are expenses paid to third parties such as the probate court fee (£273), notice fees regarding possible debts (£200-300), bankruptcy searches, certificate fees. They are normally payable from the estate and are additional to the legal fees.

 

Administration

 

We also offer an administration service which means dealing with the collection of the estate, payment of debts and liabilities, tax, sale of any house and dealing with assets such as shares, preparation of estate accounts for approval by the residuary beneficiaries and distribution of the estate. We offer a range of service, and we like to work with families as far as possible to create a bespoke service for the client and providing the best value for money.

 

We do not deal with trust registration and certain other tax matters and will recommend you to a firm of accountants with whom we have worked with over many years. There are no financial links between the firms.

 

We believe that as much money as possible should go to the person’s beneficiaries (whether persons or charities) and not in legal fees.

 

Note that the cost involved in selling or transferring property is charged separately and full details are provided to you at the relevant time.

 

Fixed Fee or Hourly Rate?

 

The choice belongs to you and is made after a discussion with us.

 

We have worked using both types of paying for the service and there are pros and cons of both fixed fees and paying for the work to reflect the actual time spent in dealing with the matter.

 

Fixed Fees

 

We will agree a fixed fee when we can assess the amount of work involved.

 

The fee would be agreed at the outset, and it cannot change. The advantage is that you know what the payment will be at the end of the day.

 

The disadvantage of fixed fees is that it not possible to know what will be involved in a case at the outset. The case can be more straightforward than anticipated. Alternatively, an estate may seem very straightforward at the beginning and then there are complications such as additional assets or debts, tax or benefit issues, or problems in collecting the assets.

 

At the end of the day a fixed fee can be too high or too low and it does not always reflect the amount of work carried out.

 

The fixed fee would reflect the known facts about the estate at the start and would typically range between £4,000 for a straightforward estate and £20,000 plus VAT in relation to a complicated estate.

 

Our minimum charge for obtaining the Grant and administering the estate is £2,500 plus VAT.

 

In deciding what is a simple or complicated estate, factors such as the number and type of assets and liabilities, number of beneficiaries and their whereabouts, family dynamics, and wording of the Will or Will Trust are all relevant factors.

 

Hourly Rate

The hourly rate means that the cost is calculated in accordance with the actual work carried out on behalf of clients.

 

Our rate is £261 plus VAT per hour and time is charged in units of 6 minutes, so this means that a letter/email/telephone call costs £26.10 plus VAT = £31.32.

 

In addition, there is a value element added in accordance with Law Society guidelines. This is typically 0.5% of the value of property in the estate and 1% of the value of the gross estate. The value element is increased where Catherine Higgins Law is appointed as the named executors.

 

We provide an estimate of costs at the outset which is reviewed as the case proceeds.

 

Interim bills are normally produced, agreed with you and paid from the estate, which avoids a big bill at the end.

 

It is important that you feel in control of the costs and don’t feel that costs are a mystery and that they are running up for no reason.

 

Remember that we are pleased to work with you so that you do what they can to reduce fees and involves you in the process and gives them control over the aspects they want to be in control of, such as dealing with the personal belongings.

Example

Joe died on 1st September and he left a Will appointing his elderly sister and Catherine Higgins Law as the executors of the estate. We have met with the family and have a good understanding of the family dynamics and the potential for falling out. We take great care to avoid any falling out, firstly because this would be disastrous for the family but also the legal costs in dealing with family fallouts are very high.

 

In his Will, Joe left his personal belongings to his sister. We have advised him in relation to his Will and advised that he may consider a defined gift of his belongings to his sister. This would mean that she would be able to deal with them and have control over whether or not she wishes any of the other family members to receive anything. It avoids the solicitor from being responsible for this aspect and therefore saves legal costs payable from Joe’s estate.

 

In Joe’s case, his sister deals with his belongings as far as possible and arranges for a local charity to have anything they can use and then I organise the final clearance, using a local clearance firm I work with and which provides an efficient and value for money service.

 

The Advantage

The clear advantage of the hourly rate is that it reflects the time spent in dealing with the case and is fair to both clients and to the solicitor and our fees are agreed with the executors. It works on the basis that clients trust us to do our job properly and efficiently, this has not been an issue.

 

The Disadvantage

The cost is open ended BUT remember that clients receive estimates and are kept informed about costs and interim bills are produced at regular intervals after the Grant of Representation has been made and there are funds to pay the bills collected from the estate.

 

Disbursements

As described earlier on, there are disbursements which are expenses paid to third parties which will include search fees (£2 per beneficiary); office copy fees (£3 per property); insurance; expert fees eg surveyor, accountant, valuer, clearance, stockbroker; Trustee Act Notices (approx. £220), the sale fees for property include estate agent and legal fees. Note that these expenses are listed in the estate accounts.

 

Summary

It is difficult to say with accuracy what the final costs would be in relation to an administration because the case can unfold like Pandora’s Box. It is clear that a simple estate involving few assets and few beneficiaries will cost less than a complex estate and numerous beneficiaries.

 

Our service is tailor made for you. Our team of solicitors has decades of experience in helping people in relation to Wills, Power of Attorney, Lasting Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Deeds of Gift, Trusts, Estate, Intestacy, administration of estates and inheritance tax, Deeds of Variation and Court of Protection. We combine legal and practical knowledge in order to put clients first and aim to provide the best service possible at a difficult and sad time for our clients.

 

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