FAQ about Wills & Probate

FAQ about Wills & Probate

Q: Do I need to make a will?
A
: Everyone should make a will. Dying without a will (known as dying intestate) can cause a great deal of unnecessary heart ache for your friends and family. It can also lead to your beneficiaries paying too much tax.

Q: What happens if I don’t make a will?
A: If you die intestate your assets will be distributed accordingly to the laws of intestacy. Follow the flow chart to show what this will mean.

Intestacy Diagram

Q: Who should I appoint as executors?
A
: Our advice would be to appoint members of your family or trusted friends where possible. If they do not wish to do the work when the time comes they can always appoint a solicitor to act on their behalf. If you appoint a bank, solicitor or will writer as your executor or joint executor then they will be able to charge your estate whatever fee they like for their work when the time comes.

Q: How much does a will cost?
A
: Our standard single will costs £199.00 including VAT. Cheaper wills are available but there is often a sting in the tail (see next question.)

Q: Why do some companies offer discounted or free wills?
A
: There is no such thing as a free will. Many companies who offer free and discounted wills try to write themselves in as executors and recoup the cost of the free will by overcharging your estate for probate services or will storage facilities.

Q: Can I write a will myself?
A
: It is possible to write your own will. However we would advise against it. It is very easy to make a simple mistake that invalidates the will. If your affairs are more complex you will also need professional advice to ensure that your affairs are arranged in a tax efficient manner.

Q: Should a solicitor draw up a will?
A
: It is essential that the person who draws up a will is properly qualified to do so. A solicitor who specialises in wills trusts and probate will be properly trained and insured to undertake the work. Alternatively members of The Institute of Professional Will Writers are qualified and fully insured. The IPW’s code of conduct has been approved by The Office of Fair Trading.

Q: What is a mirror will?
A
: A mirror will is a pair of very similar wills written by married partners or civil partners leaving everything to each other respectively and thereafter to their children or a named beneficiary if they have no offspring.

Q: Where should I keep my will?
A
: Your will must be kept safely ideally in a fireproof facility. For this reason we would advise against keeping it at home. You can keep your will in a safety deposit box at a bank or a specialist storage facility or give it to the solicitor who wrote it for safe keeping.

Q: How much does it cost to store a will?
A
: Final Duties offers a secure will storage service at £3 per month including VAT.

Q: Can I update a will?
A
: Simple changes can be made to a will using a codicil. This might be used to add or remove a beneficiary or to change the amount of a legacy. If more substantial changes are required it is usually best to prepare a new will.

Q: How do I change my executors?
A
: The executors appointed in your will can be changed using a codicil. Final Duties can prepare a suitable codicil for a fee of £69.00 including VAT.

Q: What happens if my will cannot be found?
A
: If your will cannot be found then your estate will be dealt with according to the laws of intestacy. For this reason it is essential to tell your beneficiaries where your original will is stored. It is also a good idea to leave instructions on how to find your will within your papers at home.

Q: How can I find a missing will?
A
: Many countries have a central register of wills. The U.K does not. Start by searching in the deceased’s house for clues. Then try their bank or any solicitor they have ever had dealings with. There are also a number of online will registration services and it is worth contacting all of them to see if they can help you. If the will cannot be found the estate will be dealt with according to the laws of intestacy.

Q: Can I challenge a will?
A
: The laws that govern when a will can be challenged are immensely complex. Before you do anything we would advise you to speak to a solicitor who specialises in contentious probate. We offer a fixed fee interview service which gives you 30 minutes of telephone advice with a specialist solicitor for a fee of £49.00 including VAT.
Q: Do I need Probate?
A
: If the deceased left assets in their sole name with a total value of more than £5,000 then you will usually need to obtain a Grant of Probate or letters of administration if the deceased died intestate.

Q: What is probate?
A
: Probate is the legal process of identifying the value of assets in a deceased’s estate and ensuring that they are distributed to the correct beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the will.

Q: What are letters of administration?
A
: If someone dies without a will (i.e. dies intestate) then letters of administration will need to be obtained by the next of kin before the assets of the estate can be distributed.

Q: Can I obtain a Grant of Probate myself?
A
: If the estate is simple and below the IHT threshold then it is perfectly possible to handle probate yourself. However the process of applying for probate is very time consuming and many people find it distressing to have to keep going through the deceased’s papers day after day. Consequently the great majority of people-around 71%-choose to use a solicitor or other probate professional.

Q: How much does probate cost?
A
: A solicitor will usually charge an hourly rate typically £150-£300 per hour plus a responsibility fee typically 0.5% to 1.5% of the value of the estate. Because they charge on an hourly basis solicitors have an incentive to make the work last as long as possible. Banks charge a percentage of the estate typically 4%. We feel that this is unfair because the size of the estate does not determine how much work is involved with its administration. A bank could charge £40,000 to close one bank account with a balance of £1,000,000 and distribute it to just one beneficiary. We would complete this work for less than £1,000.

Q: How should I choose a probate solicitor?
A
: It is essential to pick a probate specialist. Someone who deals with probate matters all day everyday will inevitably have greater expertise then a general practice solicitor who deals with just a handful of cases every year. If your estate is large or complex it is usually best to use a solicitor with a large probate department which includes a specialist in inheritance tax planning. Finally it is important to choose a firm who will commit to a fixed fee quotation for the work at the outset.

Q: Can I make a bank or solicitor renounce as executors?
A
: Most banks and reputable solicitors will renounce if asked to do so. If a professional executor refuses to renounce, Final Duties will employ a number of techniques to persuade them to do so. We have been  are successful in renouncing executors in over 95% of previous cases.

Q: Can I pay for probate in advance?
A
: Final Duties offers a unique Probate Prepayment option. Click here to see if this would be appropriate for you….. (Link to relevant page on our website.)

Q: How can I reduce my Inheritance tax bill?
A
: There are many ways to reduce the amount of Inheritance tax you pay. Some strategies can be employed even after death. Final Duties has several of the country’s leading Inheritance tax specialists on its solicitor panel.

Q: How long does probate take?
A
: Our target time from instruction to obtaining the grant of probate is 17 weeks. Obviously we are sometimes delayed by asset holders or creditors who are slow to reply to our correspondence and by legal complexities or disputes between the beneficiaries.