SRA I Ethics guidance: Transparency in price and service I Solicitors Regulation Authority


Applying for the grant, collecting and distributing the assets


At Barrett & Thomson, when dealing with the administration of an estate, we charge on the basis of time spent in dealing with the matter rather than any sort of percentage fee or fixed price. Your matter will be attended by an experienced and fully qualified Solicitor who work exclusively within the Private Client Department, covering Wills, Probate, Power of Attorney, Trusts, Tax, and related matters. Hourly rates at the time of writing, range from £200 plus vat to £250 plus vat depending on the experience of the Solicitor with conduct of the matter.


It is always very difficult at the outset of the matter to know how much time and work is likely to be required. We would often suggest to clients that the larger the estate, the more assets and liabilities there tend to be. Hence the level of fees tend to commensurate with the size of the estate. If the estate includes a property and savings for example, and you are looking for a full service of i dotting and t crossing, then we would usually suggest 2% to 3% by value. Dealing with the sale or transfer of any property in the estate will be quoted separately by our Conveyancing department.


The exact cost will depend on the individual circumstances of the matter. For example, if there is one beneficiary and no property, costs will be at the lower end of the range. If there are multiple beneficiaries, a property and multiple bank accounts, costs will be at the higher end.


Matters which would suggest costs may be at the lower end of the range:

• There is a valid will;

• All of the assets are in England;

• There is no more than one property;

• There are no more than five bank or building society accounts;

• There are no other intangible assets;

• There are no more than 2-3 beneficiaries and they are all living in England;

• There are no disputes between beneficiaries on division of assets;

• There is no Inheritance tax payable;

• There are no income tax returns required;

• There are no complex Trust affairs or tax planning to take account of;

• There are no claims made against the estate.


Matters which might suggest costs at the higher end of the range:

• There is no Will or an invalid Will or the Will is missing;

• There are claims against the estate or terms of the Will or Intestacy are contested;

• There are disputes between the Beneficiaries or Executors;

• The estate includes assets abroad;

• The estate includes multiple properties;

• The estate includes business interests;

• The estate includes accounts with many different banks;

• There are intangible assets such as intellectual property, copyrights;

• The estate includes various shareholdings (stocks and bonds) costs could range significantly depending on how those are to be dealt with;

• There are many beneficiaries possibly including beneficiaries abroad;

• There is Inheritance tax payable;

• There is complex Trust or Inheritance tax planning to take account of;

• The Estate is required to file Income tax returns on behalf of the deceased or for income arising during the administration of the estate;


It is often the case that one or more of these complexities may arise during the course of the administration of the estate. When that happens we will seek to resolve the matter as smoothly as possible. We always work to avoid costs rising beyond what is necessary.


Disbursements are costs related to your matter that are payable to third parties, such as Court fees. We can handle the payment of the disbursements on your behalf to ensure a smoother process. There is a Probate application fee of £160, £7 Swearing of the oath (per executor), Bankruptcy-only Land Charges Department searches (£2 per beneficiary), £280 Post in The London Gazette and Local Newspaper. This helps to protect the Executors against unknown creditors. Disbursements will also include items such as Funeral Costs, Estate Agent Fees, Inheritance tax, Income tax, Capital Gains tax, any Land Registry Fees, House Clearance Costs.


How long will this take?
Administering someone’s Estate when they die is not a simple five minute affair. We generally suggest that relatively simple and straight-forward estates can be completed within five to seven months, but more complicated estates, particularly where Inheritance Tax might be an issue, can easily take from eight to eighteen months.  We pride ourselves on generally being able to complete like for like Estates as speedily and as efficiently as anyone.  Having said that, every estate is different and brings with it its own difficulties and complexities.


Executors have duties and responsibilities that extend not only to the deceased and to the beneficiaries under the Will but also to the various Inland Revenue and Governmental departments.  Executors are unable to apply for a Grant of Probate until such time as they have completed the fullest possible enquiries into a person’s estate to ensure that all assets have been found and correctly valued.


When we first open a file we are obviously starting with a completely blank sheet of paper and our information grows as more paperwork is found and is handed in by the family. We then write, sometimes dozens, of letters to various banks, building societies, investment companies etc to establish exactly what assets were still held and their values at the date of death.  Often Testators are quite secretive about their financial affairs and often not even their closest family is fully aware of exactly what monies are held and where they are held.


The first two or three months after someone’s death is spent writing and receiving letters establishing the exact nature and extent of the estate until a comprehensive inventory can be prepared. The next month sees the completion of the Inland Revenue Account and application for a Grant of Probate.  Once Probate has been granted it generally then takes two to three months to realise all the assets and pay all the outstanding debts and any legacies.  During this time we will also open up negotiations with the Inspector of Taxes to see what tax Returns he requires to complete a deceased persons tax affairs to the date of death.


Once these matters are complete we are then generally in a position to complete the administration of the Estate and at that point the Executors duties cease. At that time we will obviously provide you with a copy of the Accounts showing how all the assets have been dealt with and what monies have been paid out, and as a consequence what monies will remain to be distributed in accordance with the terms of the Will or intestacy.


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