Using a solicitor

Unless the deceased person’s estate is straightforward and probate is unlikely to be required, you should consider appointing a solicitor or other professional adviser (such as a bank)  for the application to the Probate Registry and for help administering the estate.

No legal obligation

There is, however, no legal obligation to use professional advice for the probate process. You can do the work yourself which is what about half of people do each year.

There are a number of reasons why you may decide to use professional help, including; that the estate is large or potentially complicated, you lack the time or emotional strength to do the job properly or you are concerned that family members have the potential to be difficult.

Professional fees 

Professional fees vary substantially between firms of solicitors. You will find that most solicitors won’t work for a fixed fee as they won’t know, beyond a rough estimate, how much work is going to be involved. Instead, they will usually offer to work on one of the following bases:

1. A percentage value of the gross estate, usually between 1% and as much as 5%.  The usual percentage is between 1.5% to 2.5%.

2. An initial fee of something like 0.75% of the value of the property in the estate and then a further 1.5% of the value of other assets plus disbursements for costs such as court fees.

3. An hourly rate which may be between £100 to £350 per hour. Further costs, such as a charge per letter, for example £25, may be added on top.

VAT at 20% will then added to all fees.

You should take time to check locally and with family and friends to ensure that you find a well respected and reputable firm. A bad choice will be an expensive mistake.

You also need to be ready to negotiate on fees and, for this reason, it is advisable to speak to more than one firm before actually making the appointment.

How to mitigate the cost

One way to reduce the cost of a solicitor is for you to do the procedural work involved in the probate process. There is nothing to stop you, for example, valuing the estate, paying the liabilities and arranging to distribute assets and only using a solicitor for the grant of representation.

For peace of mind, you may want to go one step further and use the solicitor to check the work that you have done. Many solicitors will be happy to work on this basis.

If a solicitor has been appointed as an executor

A solicitor may have been appointed as one of the executors in the will; in which case, they will be able to charge for acting in this capacity.

You will need to check their proposed fee structure and be prepared to negotiate if unacceptable. In the final instance, you can appoint another solicitor to work on the estate instead. This is likely to result in the first solicitor renouncing  their appointment.

Please note

The information which we provide through Lasting Post is in outline for information or educational purposes only. The information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a Solicitor, Accountant or other professional adviser. We cannot guarantee that information provided by Lasting Post will meet your individual needs, as this will very much depend on your individual circumstances. You should therefore use the information only as a starting point for your enquiries.