Getting a grant of probate and subsequently dealing with someone’s estate can be an incredibly time-consuming and complex process, which is why many people choose to hire a professional to help them. However, there are so many solicitors and organisations available that choosing one can become a confusing task itself. This article will help you decide which probate service is right for you, and ensure you are not spending more money than you need to.
Most solicitors and organisations offer two different probate services: grant of probate and full estate administration. Before you can decide which you require, you need to understand what they entail.
Probate refers to the official document that grants you authority to deal with your loved one’s estate. To get a grant of probate, you will need to list and value every asset in the estate and submit several forms to the probate registry. This involves a lot of confusing legal terminology that the average person might not understand. If you think that you would struggle with this, you may want to hire a professional to handle the application for you. Most solicitors offer a ‘grant-only’ service, where they acquire a grant of probate for you and leave you to deal with the estate on your own.
Full estate administration, on the other hand, refers to everything that needs to be done with the estate after probate is acquired. Depending on the size and complexity of the estate, this might involve accessing pension funds, closing bank accounts, gathering funds into one place, selling property, paying debts and taxes, claiming life insurance, selling shares, and distributing assets and funds to the beneficiaries. This is the most time-consuming part of the probate process and can take anywhere from nine months to a few years in the most complex cases. Solicitors and organisations usually offer a more expensive full estate administration service where they will not only acquire a grant of probate for you but will also handle the estate for you afterwards.
Prices will vary significantly between solicitors and organisations, but for the most part, grant-only services will range from £500 to £2000, while full estate administration services can cost anywhere between £1,200 to £25,000. When choosing between grant-only and full estate administration services, it is important to consider the size and complexity of the estate, how much time you have to deal with it, and how much it will cost you.
You might consider choosing full estate administration if the estate you are dealing with is particularly large or complex. For example, if there is property to sell or transfer, multiple bank accounts, pension funds, and taxes and debts to pay. In addition, if you are working full time and have commitments outside of work such as children to look after, you may not have time to deal with probate tasks.
On the other hand, if the estate is relatively small with no property and only a few bank accounts, you might be able to save money by choosing a grant-only service and sorting out the estate yourself. This is particularly true if you are retired or have a lot of free time to handle the admin.
Not all solicitors will charge you for their services in the same way. When you are gathering quotes and comparing prices, it is important to keep in mind that not all solicitors can give you an accurate estimate of how much it will cost you.
To avoid hidden costs, it is recommended that you use a service that will charge you a fixed fee upfront. This should include any additional costs such as the probate registry fees and copies of the grant of probate.
Some solicitors charge their clients a percentage of the estate’s value. Most charge 2-4%, which, depending on the size of your estate, could end up costing you significantly more than a fixed fee service.
Another risky choice is solicitors who charge an hourly rate, which makes it extremely difficult to estimate how much you will be paying, as the solicitor cannot tell you exactly how long they will be working on your case for.
First, ask yourself whether you need to hire a probate service at all. Some people may be able to deal with the entire probate process themselves. Others may find that they only need help to acquire the grant of probate, but they have plenty of time to handle the estate on their own.
If you have determined that you do need to hire a grant-only or full estate administration service, make sure that you are completely clear with the solicitor or organisation on how much it is going to cost you. If they offer you a fixed fee, ask whether there are any additional costs that you should be aware of, such as the probate registry fees. If the price is based on an hourly rate or a percentage, ask them how accurate their estimated quote is likely to be.
When asking solicitors and organisations for quotes, you should also ask how they will keep you informed on the probate process so that you are not left for weeks without any updates. You should ask if they will contact you by phone or email to keep your mind at ease and keep you in the know.