Minimise Probate Fees

How to minimise probate fees is a question that is constantly asked by executors, particularly as many high street banks and solicitors appear to charge such high fees. The perception of probate as complex process necessitating a return to the Revenue and the involvement of a court seems to be a key factor in justifying such charges.

Typically, banks and high street solicitors fees are expressed either as a percentage of the value of the estate or an hourly rate. Neither approach is entirely satisfactory from the point of view of the client.

The former may be deemed unreasonable as there is often no correlation between the value of an estate and the work involved.  Take an actual for example where the work was minimal – all funds were in one account, yet the client was charged £40,000 by the bank to distribute the estate of £1 million.

Neither does charging by the hour work. In this instance the client is agreeing to a contract based on the time taken to do something not the outcome. Although unlikely, in theory, a solicitor has the opportunity to take as long as they want and charge as much as they like. It is easy understood why banks and solicitors find it difficult to give a definitive idea of the fees payable or provide a written quotation.

However, recent changes in the marketplace now make it possible for the executor to minimise probate fees. The Government is encouraging DIY probate by introducing an online probate application process whereby forms can be downloaded from HMRC’s website and support is available to help with their completion from a probate help line.

Further opportunity to reduce probate fees is possible by the professional probate market being transformed by several new entrants offering fixed fees services; these are based solely on the amount of work needed. It is now possible therefore possible to get a quotation and know exactly the cost before any work is begun. It is also reassuring to know that once the fee has been agreed it will not change unless there is a material alteration in the makeup of the estate.

While executors should make every effort to minimise probate fees the selection of a provider should not be based on price alone. Probate and estate administration are not a reserved legal activity which means that unregulated providers are able to offer this service. It is advisable therefore before deciding who to use to ensure that the provider under consideration is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and also that they employ experienced and qualified solicitors. Also, look out for firms who have solicitors that are STEP qualified, in other words have specialist qualifications from Society of Trust and Estate Planners to deal with probate and estate administration.

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