Thank you for looking at our probate services.
We offer legal services to assist clients dealing with the assets of a person who has died. This area of legal work is generally called “probate” or “estate administration”. The word “estate” is commonly used to refer to the assets belonging to the person who has died.
The Tanners team deals with a wide range of estates. In terms of value, some are small, others very large – and at either of those extremes, estates may be simple or complex to administer. Whatever the circumstances of a particular case, we have a team with a proven record of dealing with estate administration efficiently and sensitively. Indeed, across the team as a whole we have approximately 100 years’ experience working in this specialist area.
As with other areas of law, the firm’s focus is on offering a high quality service. We may not be the cheapest firm of lawyers, but by focussing on quality, we know that we can provide an excellent service and good value to clients.
This guidance applies only to estates meeting both of the following conditions:
- The estate administration is “uncontested”, i.e. there is no dispute about the validity of the deceased’s will (if any), or anything else about the way the estate should be dealt with.
- All assets are located in England and Wales.
We will readily help with contested estate administration, and estates that include Scottish assets, Northern Irish assets, or assets located outside the UK, but those elements of work are outside the scope of this pricing guidance (we will advise separately about the cost of any contested estate administration work you may wish us to undertake, and we do not advise on Scottish or Northern Irish law).
There are plenty of firms of lawyers who say that they are experienced professionals. Here are some things that we believe make us distinctive when it comes to estate administration work:
- Richard Isaac, one of the partners in the team, has specialised in estate administration for nearly 25 years. Prior to that he acted for individuals and businesses as a litigation specialist in London. Over the years he has successfully administered estates with various complex assets.
- Several of our lawyers started off their careers in London law firms. This background strengthens the team’s unrivalled depth of experience.
- There are also several lawyers in the team who have lived in the area all their working lives. This gives us strong local knowledge.
- We are active members of the specialist organisation STEP (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners). Most members of our team are full STEP members, which is an unusual and valuable distinction.
- We do not pay any referral fees to professional contacts who introduce clients to us. Our business is generated from returning clients or from recommendations from financial advisers, accountants and estate agents etc.
- Estate administration work may become so time sensitive or delicate that it cannot be dealt with during normal working hours. Sometimes, too, our clients are resident in foreign time zones. If any work requires us to be available in the evenings or weekends, we will be.
- We are happy to attend meetings away from the office as required, whatever the reason, and can include the cost of this in our estimate if required.
- While tricky problems do rear their heads in estate administration work from time to time, we will almost always be able to deal with anything of that nature in house. Because of our experience, we can often add value (including through tax saving, where appropriate) during estate administration.
- We genuinely pride ourselves on finding solutions. We do not operate a “tick box” attitude to estate administration and will use all our imagination to find an answer to any problem generated as the work progresses.
- We use highly developed specialist estate accounting software to produce regularly updated estate accounts during the administration work. This assists with general budgeting and also enables us to help executors manage beneficiaries’ expectations from an early stage.
- Should problems emerge, we are used to working closely with our highly experienced litigation team, enabling us to deal efficiently with any disputes that may arise during the course of estate administration work.
The Estate Administration Process
Typically estate administration involves the following steps:
- Finding out what the assets are. We will need to obtain date of death values of the assets owned by the deceased, including furniture and other personal items, investments and any residential or commercial property. The values given must be “open market” values. We will normally instruct the valuers directly as we can then ensure that appropriate instructions are given to minimise any difficulty with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) further down the line. If there is no inheritance tax to pay then it may not be necessary for professional valuations to be obtained. We will advise the executors / administrators about this.
- Establishing the liabilities of the estate (including funeral expenses). Please note that executors (or administrators) are eligible for reimbursement from the estate for any proper estate expenses paid by them personally; records should be kept. Funeral expenses are deductible from the gross value of the estate for inheritance tax purposes.
- Retrieving information in relation to lifetime gifts. We would normally request bank and credit card statements for seven years prior to death to carry out the necessary due diligence. Executors / administrators are personally responsible for disclosing to HMRC anything that could affect the inheritance tax position, and they have a duty to make all reasonable enquiries to ascertain whether any lifetime gifts were made. Significant penalties can be imposed if HMRC believes tax has been underpaid as a result of inadequate enquiries. It is advisable to make enquiries with the deceased’s relatives and friends as appropriate.
- Putting all of the financial information into the inheritance tax form. If no inheritance tax is due, it may only be necessary to complete the relatively simple IHT205 form. The more detailed inheritance tax account (IHT400 and schedules) will need to be completed in relation to any estate that is subject to inheritance tax (or in any event if the estate is worth over £1m or in certain other situations).
- Preparing an oath (or statement) for executors / administrators. The executors / administrators may need to sign the oath / statement in the presence of a solicitor or other “commissioner for oaths” while in possession of the original will.
- Sending the completed IHT account to HMRC and arranging payment of inheritance tax (if relevant). A few weeks later, we will receive a stamped acknowledgement. If no inheritance tax is payable, this stage is skipped.
- Sending the original will and oath to the Probate Registry. If inheritance tax is payable, this stage can only be completed once HMRC’s acknowledgement has been received; after we have received that, we can send the paperwork to the Probate Registry. Approximately 2-4 weeks later, the original and several sealed copies of the “grant of probate” should be received (or “grant of letters of administration” if there is no will). We may advise against marketing any property in the estate until the “grant” has been obtained, but this will depend on the circumstances.
- Sealed copies of the grant can then be used to collect in the assets of the estate.
- At the conclusion of the work, we will send out estate accounts for the executors/administrators to sign, and in fact we will start preparing these in draft form at an early stage during the estate administration work.
Please note that HMRC sometimes takes a very long time to complete its enquiries. It is likely we will advise that a reserve is kept until we receive the “all clear”, in the form of a letter confirming HMRC has no further enquiries. In some cases this letter will not arrive until many months after the grant of probate has been obtained.
The stages listed above are covered in the guidance about charges that is set out below.
The total amount payable will be made up of our charges, tax, and certain costs payable to other businesses or individuals. If we pay other businesses or individuals on behalf of client executors / administrators, those expenses are known as “disbursements”. We will include them in our invoices at cost.
If any fees indicated below are shown “plus VAT” then VAT is charged separately and is 20% on top of the indicated amount (as at December 2018) unless stated otherwise.
Remember that every estate is different. The range of costs given below is based on work we have undertaken for real clients in the recent past. Examples given are real examples. If you have an estate that needs to be administered, it will have its own complexities and we will advise you specifically about our anticipated costs at an early stage in the work.
Unlike many firms, we do not charge a percentage of the value of an estate or assets within it. We charge purely on the basis of time spent, using the hourly rates applicable to the appropriate members of our team who work on the estate in question, which will be notified to you at the outset.
Our charges for administering an estate will normally fall in the range from £3,000 plus VAT to £20,000 plus VAT, taxes (see below) and disbursements (see below). Please note the following:
- Our charges will generally be towards the lower end of the range for straightforward estates that are not subject to inheritance tax, particularly if the simple IHT205 can be used (rather than the more complex IHT400).
- Our charges will generally be towards the middle of the range or the higher end of the range if some or all of the following factors are relevant: inheritance tax is payable (and particularly if HMRC raises queries); there is a significant history of lifetime gifts; there are assets abroad; there are multiple beneficiaries or properties.
- Our charges may be above the top end of the range in approximately 10-15% of cases – typically those that are unusually complex and/or those involving a significant element of risk.
- The work prior to the grant (stages 1 to 7 above) generally accounts for about half to two thirds of the overall time spent (and therefore cost of) dealing with the estate administration as a whole. The post-grant work may represent a greater proportion of the work if assets and/or beneficiaries are numerous or in any way complicated to deal with.
The charges described in this section do not include any work that is not described in the numbered stages listed above. Specifically, we will charge separately for any tax planning work (such as deeds of variation), and for the work involved in selling (or indeed buying) property during the course of administering an estate. Separate information is provided on our website regarding residential property charges, and this will be discussed with you at the time if relevant.
We charge for electronic money transfers in accordance with our terms of business (£15 plus VAT or £30 plus VAT).
Tax in estate administration
Inheritance tax may be payable – if so, it is normally possible to pay it from the deceased’s bank accounts or investments. If there is residential property, it may be possible to pay the inheritance tax bill over the course of a period of ten years. If inheritance tax is payable but there is no way to pay from the deceased’s assets in the short term, we will advise you about other options.
Income tax and capital gains tax may be payable during the estate administration. We aim to warn you if this is likely to become relevant. We have good connections with accountants locally and nationwide, and will introduce you to an appropriate person if you ask us to.
The list below gives an indication of the main costs that may be payable to other businesses or individuals during estate administration work.
- Probate Registry fee – approximately £160 (no VAT) – until April 2019, when the government plans to introduce much higher fees except for very small estates. This is payable to HM Courts and Tribunals Service when applying for the grant of probate or letters of administration.
- Financial Asset Search – £135 plus VAT. Payable to Landmark if you decide to undertake this search for unclaimed assets the deceased may have owned.
- Statutory advertisements – typically around £300 including VAT. Payable to the advertising agent if you decide to place advertisements to protect the executors / administrators.
- Probate valuation fee for investments – if required. This varies depending on the terms of the investment manager in question.
- Fee for a chartered surveyor’s valuation of residential or commercial property – if required (not normally required unless inheritance tax is payable on the estate). The fee varies depending on the surveyor used and the nature of the property. Typically the surveyor’s fee would be between £500 plus VAT and £5,000 plus VAT for an individual property. It may be possible to offset the fee against the commission payable when subsequently selling the property in question if the surveyor is employed by the estate agent you wish to use.
- Fee for a valuation of jewellery, paintings, furniture and other personal items, payable to an auctioneer or other appropriate specialist. In many estates this will amount to a few hundred pounds but items that are valuable and/or rare may involve higher valuation fees.
- Accountancy fees in relation to the deceased’s tax return for the final personal tax return and any annual tax returns required during the estate administration. This varies depending on the accountant used and the complexity of the income / gains situation. Typically the accountant’s fee would be between £200 plus VAT and £1,000 plus VAT for a given year.
Experience and Rates
The team comprises lawyers (whose time is invoiced to clients) and support staff including legal secretaries (whose time is not generally invoiced to clients unless they undertake work in a paralegal capacity). The table below identifies the members of the team who are involved in estate administration work and whose time may be invoiced to clients. All team members listed below work exclusively in estate administration and wills etc., and have done so since qualification, except Richard, who over a long career has specialised in these and other areas.
Anna Freeland, Richard Isaac and Jeremy Taylor are the three partners in the team; they are the team’s supervisors and all are full members of STEP (see above). Geraldine Craig and Alice Fitzgerald are also full members of STEP.
Basic hourly charging rate*
Chartered legal executive
£140 plus VAT
Graduate member of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives
£110 plus VAT
£240 plus VAT
£190 plus VAT
£250 plus VAT
£300 plus VAT
Chartered legal executive
£140 plus VAT
£250 plus VAT
* These are our basic rates. In cases of difficulty and/or high responsibility, higher rates may apply by agreement, but charges will only ever be calculated by reference to the time spent on the matter and there will never be a charge based on a percentage of the value.
Last updated: December 2018