1) What is probate?
1) What is probate?
If you’ve recently lost a loved one or are the executor of a will, you may need to apply for probate to deal with their estate. Here, we’ll explain what probate is, what it involves and why it’s so important.
Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things any of us will ever have to go through, and applying for probate is a huge part of that. But before starting your application, it’s important to understand the meaning of probate, the key steps involved and the various documents you may need to apply for.
Probate is the legal process you need to go through to deal with someone’s estate when they die. This is often called ‘applying for probate’. After submitting your application to the government, you’ll receive a document that you can take to banks, the Land Registry and other organisations. This gives you the authority to collect assets and distribute funds to beneficiaries.
Probate is required after around 50% of deaths in the UK and can be needed whether there is a will or not. If most of the assets were jointly owned or the estate’s value is less than £10,000, you may not need to apply for probate.
If you do need to go through the probate process, you’ll either need to apply for a grant of probate or grant of letters of administration. Together, these documents are known as grants of representation. We’ll look at what each of these terms mean below.
What is a grant of probate?
A grant of probate is an official court document that proves you have the authority to deal with someone’s estate. If the person whose estate you’re dealing with had a will and you’re the executor, you may need to apply for a grant of probate to access their estate. Once this has been approved, you’ll be free to sell property, pay off debts, close accounts and distribute assets in accordance with the will.
2) What is a grant of letters of administration?
A grant of letters of administration is an official court document that proves you have the authority to deal with someone’s estate. The key difference between this and a grant of probate is that a grant of letters of administration is needed for estates where there is no will. It may also be required in cases where there is a will but the executors are unable to deal with the estate. This is known as a grant of letters of administration with will annexed.
If you recently lost a loved one and stand to inherit the majority of their estate under the rules of intestacy, you may need to apply for a grant of letters of administration before you can deal with their assets. As part of this process, you’ll become the administrator of the estate.
What's the difference between probate and full estate administration?
When comparing prices for probate solicitors, you’ll probably notice a huge range of fees ranging from the hundreds well into the thousands. That’s because there are two different types of service you can choose from when applying for probate: getting the grant of probate (or grant of letters of administration) and full estate administration.
3) Obtaining the grant of probate
The simplest and cheapest option available is to simply get the grant of probate or grant of letters of administration. At Wellbeing Services, we quote fixed-fees of £565 for this service.
For this, we set up a phone call or face to face meeting to gather information about the estate and ask for any documents we may need. Our legal team will then check it over and, if everything is in order, they’ll prepare your probate application and tax forms. This will be sent out to you for approval, then, after receiving your signed documents, our legal team will submit your application to the government. Once your application is approved, we’ll get your grant sent out in the post, then you’re free to sell any property, close accounts and distribute funds to beneficiaries.
This could be a good option for you if you’re good with finances and have plenty of time on your hands. However, if you’re working full time or are worried you could get something wrong, you may prefer our full estate administration service.
Full estate administration
Full estate administration includes everything involved in getting the grant of probate or grant of letters of administration, plus all the admin that comes before and afterwards. This may include paying off debts and inheritance tax, selling property, closing bank accounts and collecting funds, claiming on life insurance policies, and distributing funds to beneficiaries.
Every estate is different, so the cost of our full estate administration service varies from case to case. While many probate solicitors charge a percentage of the estate, we always quote a fixed-fee upfront so you know exactly what to expect.
4) When is probate required?
If you’ve recently lost a loved one, you're probably thinking about applying for probate. But before submitting your application, it’s worth checking to make sure you need it. Here, we’ll cover what probate is and when it’s required in England and Wales.
Probate is the legal process you need to go through to deal with someone’s estate when they die. After going through this process, you’ll receive a government-approved document that you can take to banks, the land registry and other organisations. This gives you the authority to collect assets and distribute funds to beneficiaries.
What is the probate threshold?
The probate threshold in England and Wales can be anywhere between £5,000 and £50,000. This is because every bank and financial organisation has their own rules on how much money they can release before seeing a grant of probate.
We’ve provided a list of probate thresholds from the most popular financial organisations below:
Aviva - £50,000
AXA - £10,000
Bank of Ireland - £10,000
Bank of Scotland - £50,000
Barclays - £50,000
Birmingham Midshires - £25,000
Britannia - £30,000
Cheltenham & Gloucester - £25,000
Co-op Bank - £30,000
First Direct - Decided on a case-by-case basis. (If beneficiaries are children: £30,000. If beneficiaries is a spouse: £50,000. Might be lower for others, in which case you have to contact First Direct.)
Halifax - £50,000
HSBC - Decided on a case-by-case basis. (If beneficiaries are children: £30,000. If beneficiaries is a spouse: £50,000. Might be lower for others, in which case you have to contact HSBC.)
Lloyds TSB - £50,000
M&S Money - £15,000
Nationwide - £50,000
Natwest - £25,000
NS&I - £5,000 to £15,000 depending on the will and the number of executors
Post Office - £10,000
Royal Bank of Scotland - £25,000
Sainsbury's Bank - £20,000
Santander - £50,000
Skipton Building Society £15,000
Tesco Bank - £25,000
Virgin Money £35,000
Woolwich - £15,000
Yorkshire Building Society - £30,000
How to find out if you need probate
Probate is required after around 50% of deaths in the UK and can be needed whether there is a will or not. Here are two things you can do to try and find out if you need probate:
1. Work out the value of the estate. If the total value of the estate is less than £10,000, you probably won’t need to apply for probate. This is because banks are more willing to release smaller funds and assets without seeing a formal grant from the government.
In some cases, banks and other organisations have been known to release up to £50,000 without seeing a grant. So if you think the estate value is fairly small, check with the specific companies to see what their probate threshold is.
2. Find out if the assets are jointly owned. The next thing to find out is how the assets are owned. If all the assets in the estate are jointly owned – such as property, bank accounts and savings – these will automatically pass to the surviving co-owner. This means that you won’t need to apply for probate to release these assets, you’ll just need the death certificate.
However, you may still need to apply for probate if the property was owned as tenants in common, or if there are other solely owned assets within the estate. This may include things like bank accounts, shares, pensions and life insurance policies.
3. Get a free probate consultation. If you need help working out whether you need to apply for probate, you can speak to one of our probate specialists for free by calling 01482 893258. We’ll talk through your situation for a few minutes and offer guidance on the estate you’re dealing with.
5) How to apply for probate
Once you’ve worked out that you need probate and built up a good picture of the assets and debts within the estate, you should start your application as soon as possible. The government can take a little while to approve applications, so the sooner yours is submitted, the better.
When it comes to applying for probate with Wellbeing Services, you’ll have a choice between two different options:
1. Getting the grant. The cheapest option is simply to get the grant of probate or letters of administration. For this, Wellbeing Services offer a fixed-price of just £565. This is a great choice if the estate is fairly straightforward, you have plenty of free time and you’re good with numbers.
After a brief consultation over the phone, we’ll set up a follow-up call or a face to face visit to record all the necessary information about the estate. Once we have everything we need, our legal team will complete the application and tax forms, then we’ll send this to you for your approval before submitting it to the probate registry.
Once we receive the grant, we’ll send it out in the post, then you’re free to sort out the estate yourself – including selling property, paying off debts, closing bank accounts and distributing assets.
2. Full estate administration. If you’re short on time, want more support or feel that the estate is too complex to take on yourself, we also offer a full estate administration service. This reduces the burden on you and your family and gives you the assurance that the estate is being dealt with correctly.
Here’s a brief breakdown of what’s included with full estate administration:
Contacting third parties about the assets and debts in the estate
Completing the application for probate
Collecting or transferring assets
Paying off debts to include taxes
Contacting beneficiaries and ensuring that they receive their inheritance
As full estate administration is a more involved service, our pricing varies on a case-by-case basis. Call our probate specialists today on 01482 893258 for a free quote.
6) Do I need probate if my husband or wife dies?
You may need probate if your husband or wife dies and leaves behind assets that aren’t jointly owned with you. However, if you’re the joint owner of their property and bank accounts, probate may not be required.
Is probate needed between husband and wife?
Probate isn’t needed between husband and wife if all the assets in the estate were jointly owned. This includes things like:
Building society accounts
However, probate may be required if there are additional assets in the estate worth over £10,000 that were owned solely by them. This includes things like:
Other bank and building society accounts
Personal savings accounts
Stocks and shares
Is probate needed between civil partners?
Like with married partners, probate isn't needed between civil partners for any assets that are jointly owned – such as property, bank accounts, building society accounts and savings. In fact, this rule applies to anyone you own joint assets with, whether they’re your spouse, civil partner, friend or relative.
However, if there are solely owned assets in the estate worth over £10,000, a grant of probate or letters of administration may be required before you can access them.
Joint tenants vs. tenants in common – what's the difference?
There are two different ways you can own property with another person: joint tenants or tenants in common. It’s important to understand the difference when dealing with the estate of your husband or wife, as this can impact whether or not you need to apply for probate.
Here, we’ll cover each type of ownership in detail to help you work out how your property is owned.
If a property is owned as joint tenants, each tenant has equal rights to the whole property. This means that, if one of the tenants dies, the surviving tenant automatically takes ownership of the whole property.
This is the most common type of ownership for people who are married or in a civil partnership.
Tenants in common
If a property is owned as tenants in common, each tenant owns a percentage of the whole property. This means that, if one of the tenants dies, their share of the property makes up part of their estate. This will then pass under the terms of their will or by intestacy if they don’t have a will.
This type of ownership is more popular with unmarried couples or friends taking their first step on the property ladder, but married couples and civil partners can also own property as tenants in common.
How to find out how your property is owned
If you still aren’t sure how your property is owned, call our friendly probate specialists today on 01482 893258. We can talk through your situation, work out if you need probate.
How to get probate if you’re the executor of your husband or wife’s estate:
If you were named the executor of your spouse or civil partner’s will, you may need to apply for probate before you can administer their estate. Here, we’ll cover the main steps you need to follow before you can close accounts and distribute assets to beneficiaries.
1. Work out how much the estate is worth. In order to work out whether probate is required, you’ll need to build up a picture of your spouse or civil partner’s estate. This includes things like property, bank and building society accounts, savings, debts, stocks and shares, life insurance, and pensions.
If there are solely owned assets worth over £10,000, there’s a good chance you’ll need to get a grant of probate before you can distribute funds to beneficiaries. However, this value can be higher for certain organisations.
2. Apply for probate. Once you’ve worked out that you need a grant of probate, you’ll need to prepare your probate application. It’s important to get started as quickly as possible so that beneficiaries aren’t left waiting for their inheritance.
At Wellbeing Services, we offer a fixed-price probate service for just £565. Here’s how it works:
We have a call or face to face appointment to collect details about your loved one’s estate
Your probate application is prepared and sent to you to be signed
Your probate application is submitted to the probate registry
Your approved grant of probate is sent to you in the post
3. Administer the estate. After receiving your approved grant of probate, you’re free to start closing accounts, selling or transferring property, and distributing assets to the beneficiaries named in the will.
If the estate is fairly simple, you may be comfortable dealing with this yourself. However, this process can become much more complex if there are multiple accounts to deal with or inheritance tax has to be paid.
If you would like advice on probate or the service we provide, please call our probate specialists today on 01482 893258. We can provide you with a free quote in just a few minutes.
How to apply to be the administrator of your husband of wife's estate
If your husband, wife or civil partner died without a will, you’ll be their next of kin under the rules of intestacy. This means that you stand to inherit the first £270,000 of their estate, plus 50% of anything that remains.
As the main beneficiary of the estate, you’ll need to apply to become the administrator. At the end of this process, you’ll be sent a grant of letters of administration. This will give you the legal authority to deal with their estate in the same way that an executor deals with someone’s estate when there is a will.
To apply to become the administrator of your spouse or civil partner’s estate, call our probate specialists today on 01482 893258.
7) Who can apply for probate?
After losing a loved one, you may need to apply for probate before you can deal with their estate – but only specific people can handle the probate application. Here, we’ll look at who can apply and how you can get started today.
Who can apply for probate if there is a will?
You can apply for probate if the person who died made a will and named you as an executor. It’s normal for the person writing a will to tell their executors they’ve been appointed, but it’s worth checking the will to be sure. The document you receive at the end of this process is known as a grant of probate.
If the executors named in the will have died, an administrator will need to be named by the court. Again, this is usually the beneficiary who stands to inherit the most based on what’s been left in the will.
You may have to go through a similar process if the executors named in the will have lost mental capacity – for example, if they suffer from dementia. If there are no surviving executors with mental capacity, an administrator will need to be named by the court. This may be someone who has power of attorney for the executor that lacks capacity, or a person authorised to apply by Court of Protection.
If the executors named in the will are refusing to apply for probate, you can apply to the court to have the executors of the estate removed. This is usually dealt with by a close relative who stands to inherit the most, like a partner or adult child of the person who died.
To find out more about removing an executor or having a new executor appointed, call our probate specialists today on 01482 893258.
Who can apply for probate if the person who died didn’t leave a will?
In cases where probate is required but there is no will, someone will need to apply for a grant of letters of administration. This is usually the person who stands to inherit the most under the rules of intestacy, a set of traditional laws defining what happens to your estate when there is no will. If the person who died has a living spouse or civil partner, they’ll be responsible for dealing with the application.
If the spouse or civil partner has died or is unable to apply for the grant, another family member will need to submit the application. Using the list below, you can see who usually takes responsibility next based on their relationship with the person who died:
Children (or grandchildren over 18 if children have died – this includes any children adopted by the person who died but does not include step-children)
Siblings (or nieces and nephews over 18 if siblings have died)
Half-siblings (or nieces and nephews over 18 if half-siblings have died)
Aunts or uncles
Children of aunts and uncles (cousins)
If the only people entitled to apply for probate are minors, call our specialists for free on 01482 893258. We’ll help you work out who can get the grant based on your situation.
8) What does the executor or administrator do?
The executor or administrator of the estate (also known as the personal representative) takes responsibility for applying for probate and distributing the estate to beneficiaries. This can involve many steps, including but not limited to:
Tracking down any financial documents belonging to the person who died
Sending a copy of the death certificate to banks, building societies, the Land Registry, share registrars and other organisations that hold the money of the person who died
Asking banks to freeze accounts so no money can be withdrawn without correct legal authority
Opening a bank account on behalf of the estate
Finding details of any money owed to the person who died
Finding details of any money or debts owed by the person who died
Writing a detailed list of the property, money and possessions, and debts in the estate
Working out how much inheritance tax is due and arranging to pay it
If applying for probate yourself, preparing and sending off the documents required by the probate registry and HM Revenue and Customs
After receiving the grant of probate (or grant of letters of administration), collecting in money from any banks, building societies, insurance companies and pensions that make up the estate
Selling property and shares or transferring to beneficiaries
Paying debts, expenses and fees out of the estate, such as solicitors fees
Sharing out the estate in accordance with the will or rules of intestacy
How to get help with probate
If you need help applying for probate, call our probate specialists today on 01482 893258. Our team will happily answer any questions you have, including whether probate is needed and if you’re the right person to apply.
After confirming that you can apply for probate, you’ll need to decide whether you want a grant-only service or full estate administration. We offer both of these services at Wellbeing Services and will happily provide you with a free, no obligation quote over the phone. You can find out more about each of these below:
We arrange a couple of phone calls to gather information about the estate you’re dealing with. Then we get the tax and probate forms prepared, send them out to you to be checked, and submit them to the probate registry.
Once the probate application has been approved, we get it sent out to you in the post, then you’re free to close accounts, sell property and distribute assets to beneficiaries.
This service costs £565.00. 75% of estates in England and Wales qualify for our lower price.
Full estate administration
Full estate administration includes everything above, plus anything that comes before or after applying for probate. This is particularly popular if the estate is complex or in cases where the executor/administrator works full time or struggles with financial admin.
The cost of this service is agreed upfront, but we always quote on a case-by-case basis depending on the complexity of the estate. If you’re not sure which service is right for you, it’s worth getting a quote when you speak to us, as the difference may not be as much as you think.
9) How long does probate take?
Traditionally, applying for probate has been a complex, expensive process that can take many months to get sorted. But there are now options available to help make things quicker, simpler and more affordable.
The probate process can take anywhere from 3-12 months – sometimes even longer in more complex cases. This covers everything from collecting information about the estate to distributing assets to beneficiaries.
Here, we’ll go through each of the steps in detail so you know exactly what to expect.
How long does it take to apply for probate?
In order to apply for probate, you need to start by gathering information about your loved one’s estate. If the estate is quite small and simple, this may only take a few hours. However, if there are multiple accounts, pensions and properties to deal with, it could take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months to gather all the necessary information.
This may involve things like:
Using the government’s Tell Us Once service
Getting the property valued
Looking through paperwork to find out where money is kept
Speaking to banks, pension providers and other financial organisations to find out how much is in each account
Gathering information about any debts or gifts given in the last seven years
Finding out how much tax is owed
Once you’ve gathered all of these details in one place, you’re ready to start your probate application.
How long does it take for a probate application to be approved?
Once your application has been submitted to the probate registry, it takes between 3-6 weeks for it to be approved – sometimes longer if the estate is particularly complex. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that you or your probate solicitors can do to speed up this part of the process.
After your grant has been approved, it will be sent out in the post. You’re then ready to start dealing with the estate.
How long does it take to deal with someone's estate?
Depending on the complexity of the estate, it usually takes 3-6 months to sell off property, close bank accounts and distribute the assets to any beneficiaries. Using a professional for full estate administration doesn’t necessarily speed this process up, but it does help to take some of the weight off your shoulders.
Here are some of things you may need to do when administering the estate:
Complete an inheritance tax return and pay any taxes due – such as inheritance tax, income tax or capital gains tax
Put the house on the market and oversee the sale
Close bank accounts and collect funds in one place
Contact pension providers to access funds
Claim on any life insurance policies
Repay any outstanding debts owed by the deceased
Distribute funds to the beneficiaries
10) How much does the probate process cost?
In most cases, probate costs somewhere between £1,000 and £5,000. However, larger estates can easily cost upwards of £20,000. This is because different probate solicitors charge their clients in different ways. Some offer a fixed-price quote upfront, while more traditional providers tend to work on an hourly rate or percentage basis.
Another reason for the huge difference in price is the type of service you receive. Here, we’ll cover the two main options available:
1. Grant-only service. If you're happy to sell property, close down bank accounts and distribute money in accordance with your loved one’s will (or the rules of intestacy if there isn’t a will), you could save thousands by choosing a simple, grant-only probate service. This can usually be dealt with over the phone, email and post, so there’s no need to visit a probate registry or swear an oath.
2. Full estate administration. If you're uncomfortable handling all the admin that comes with distributing the estate, or you feel like the estate is simply too complicated, you may choose to pay a probate solicitor to do this for you. The fees for this can vary depending on the size and complexity of the estate, and how many assets need to be dealt with.
How do you get probate?
At Wellbeing Services, we offer a grant-only probate service for just£565. We also offer a fixed-price estate administration service, but this is quoted on a case-by-case basis.
11) What information do you need before applying for probate?
Before applying for probate, you'll need to gather details about your loved one's estate. Here, we'll cover what you need, why, and how you can find it – and we’ve also got a free probate checklist to help you keep track of everything.
Applying for probate is the first step in dealing with someone’s estate. But in order to approve your grant, the government needs to see a clear picture of the estate’s value. This includes things like property, debts, bank accounts, pensions and other financial assets.
To make the probate application process as smooth as possible, it’s a good idea to gather this information in advance. In this guide, we’ll look at everything from finding someone’s will to getting their property valued for probate.
How to get a copy of a will before probate
When someone writes a will, it's recommended that they tell their executors where the will is kept – this helps to make the process smoother when dealing with their estate. However, if you are the executor and don't know where the will is stored, it's important to track it down as quickly as possible.
Most people keep their will with other important financial documents. If your loved one has a safe or an office with a filing cabinet, this is probably the best place to start. Note that if the will was written with a solicitor or bank, the document you find may only be a copy. You may need to speak to the person or organisation who wrote the will to obtain the original will.
If you can’t find the will anywhere but think one was made with a particular organisation, you could reach out to them to check. Alternatively, you can see if the will was deposited with the Principal Registry of the Family Division or with Certainty – a National Will Register who can carry out a will search for a fee.
If you still can't find the will, you may need to apply for a grant of letters of administration. In this scenario, the estate would instead be divided up following the rules of intestacy – a set of laws that define what happens to someone's estate when there is no will. For these cases, the person who stands to inherit the most usually handles the application.
How to find someone's financial records
In order to prepare your probate application and tax forms, you'll need to track down some key details about the estate. This includes things like debts, tax owed, gifts made in the last 7 years, shareholdings, investments, life insurance, pensions, and the balance in any bank accounts.
Here, we'll cover some of the key things you need to do before you can apply for probate:
1. Use the government's Tell Us Once service
After registering the death, you'll have 28 days to use the government's Tell Us Once service. This allows you to report the death to multiple government organisations at once, including:
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) – to deal with personal tax (you'll need to contact HMRC separately for business taxes, like VAT)
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – to cancel benefits and entitlements, for example Universal Credit or State Pension
Passport Office – to cancel a British passport
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) – to cancel a licence and remove the person as the keeper of up to 5 vehicles (contact DVLA separately if you keep or sell a vehicle)
Local Council – to cancel Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction (sometimes called Council Tax Support), a Blue Badge, inform council housing services and remove the person from the electoral register
Veterans UK – to cancel Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments
You can find out more about the government's Tell Us Once service here.
2. Contact banks and other financial organisations
If your loved one left a will, they may have included an inventory of their assets. However, this isn't always the case, so you may need to search the home to track down any assets or liabilities they held.
Office rooms, safes and filing cabinets are always good places to start, and sideboards, bedside drawers and kitchen drawers are also worth checking. If you're really struggling to find the information you need, you could search their wallet to find out who they bank with. You may even be able to check their emails if you have access to their phone or computer. It’s also worth going through their bank statements, which may shed some light on other organisations that may need to be contacted.
After building up a list of their assets and debts (e.g. Current account with Barclays, Pension with Scottish Widows, etc), you'll need to contact each organisation for a final statement. This is to work out the value of each asset and whether any debts are owed. In most cases, you'll also be asked to send a copy of the death certificate, most assets will then be frozen until you have a grant of probate or grant of letters of administration.
3. How to value property for probate
It’s the executor’s responsibility to protect the assets in the estate. So the first thing to do is make sure that house insurance is in place and that the insurance provider is aware of your loved one’s death. Once you’re happy with the extent of the house insurance cover, you should make an effort to secure the house (or houses) to prevent theft of break-ins. Make sure all the windows are closed and ensure that any doors, garages, sheds or outhouses are locked. And if there are any valuables such as jewelry or antiques, these can be collected and held for safekeeping until they’re ready to be distributed to beneficiaries.
The next thing to do is get a valuation for the property. By searching for the address on Zoopla and looking at the price of similar houses in the area, you may be able to get a good idea of how much the house is worth. However, you may be better off getting a professional valuation if inheritance tax is likely to be an issue.
If you choose not to use an estate agent or a RICS qualified surveyor, HMRC may challenge your property valuation. This usually happens in cases where the property value keeps the estate just below the inheritance tax threshold – which can be seen as suspicious or convenient in the eyes of HMRC. The current threshold for inheritance tax is £325,000, however, this can increase to £650,000 or even as high as £1 million depending on the circumstances.
12) How to compare probate services and prices
Before choosing your probate provider, it’s worth shopping around to find the best service at the best possible price. Here, we’ll look at the main things you need to look out for when comparing probate services in England and Wales.
Probate vs. full estate administration – what’s the difference?
When shopping around for probate, you may hear probate solicitors using the term ‘estate administration’. But before choosing a professional probate provider, it’s important to understand exactly what each of these terms mean.
Probate (short for ‘grant of probate’) is a document issued by HM Courts Service. It proves that certain people have the authority to deal with the assets of someone who died – such as the executor or administrator of the estate. Banks often need to see a grant of probate before they can release funds, and it’s also required if a house needs to be sold.
To obtain a grant of probate, you first need to fill out a series of forms and submit them to the probate registry. If you aren’t used to all the legal jargon, it can be easy to make mistakes when applying for probate yourself. Instead, many people choose to use a professional service to help them get probate. You may see these referred to as ‘grant-only’ services.
Full estate administration
Full estate administration is everything that needs to be done to sort out someone’s affairs — not just the grant of probate. It could mean calling up banks, filling out their forms, dealing with the family, paying debts, closing accounts, sorting out pensions, selling shares, collecting in funds, clearing the house, selling the house, paying everything out to the beneficiaries, and so on.
This juggling act can be challenging for some people, particularly after dealing with a bereavement. But the main issue is that it’s very time-consuming. From start to finish, the whole estate administration process takes around 9-12 months, which can be particularly difficult to do yourself if you’re also working full time.
Which service is right for me?
When you compare probate services and get quotes from probate solicitors, there’s a good chance that some of the quotes you receive will actually be for full estate administration. Solicitors often try to upsell their clients to full estate administration because it’s a more expensive option; however, that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t the right option for you.
Here are the three main things to consider when choosing between a grant-only probate service and full estate administration:
Complexity. If the estate is made up of a few bank accounts and there’s no property to transfer or sell, you can probably deal with the estate administration. But if there are bank accounts, pensions, life insurance policies and properties to sort out, it’s likely to be a much more complicated process.
Time. It’s important to think about how much time you’ll realistically be able to spend dealing with paperwork and estate administration. If you’re working and have children to look after, it’s going to be very difficult to find any spare time to sort out the estate. But if you’re retired and don’t have many other commitments, you could save money by dealing with all the admin yourself.
Cost. Grant-only probate services usually range from £500 to £2,000, while full estate administration services can be anywhere from £1,200 to £25,000. However, it’s important to get quotes from a range of providers, as prices can vary wildly for exactly the same service.
Different ways solicitors charge for probate. Another thing to consider when you compare probate services is that solicitors charge for probate in different ways. This can make it difficult to calculate exactly how much you’ll have to pay, but you may be able to make an estimate based on the value of the estate.
Here are the three main ways solicitors charge for probate:
Fixed price. This is where your probate solicitor will quote you a fixed price upfront, including any additional costs for the probate registry fees or copies of probate. This is the safest option as it ensures there are no hidden costs to worry about later.
Percentage basis. This is where the probate solicitor charges a percentage (usually 2-4%) of the estate’s total value. Percentage-based pricing often sounds great on paper, but – for a simple estate worth £300,000 – you could easily end up paying between £6,000 and £12,000.
Hourly rate. Though this is gradually being phased out, some solicitors still charge their clients on an hourly rate, which can be anywhere from £150 to £300 an hour. This is often the riskiest choice, as it’s very difficult to know exactly how much you’ll need to pay upfront.
7 questions to ask when getting a quote for probate
To pull together an accurate probate comparison, it’s important to understand the level of service you’re likely to receive. Here are eight questions you should always ask when you compare probate services:
1. Do I need professional help at all? They should ask you about the circumstances and give you relevant advice. Don’t be pushed into something you don’t want.
2. Do you offer grant-only probate or estate administration, and which is right for me? Again, you should be asked about the circumstances and given clear suggestions about the level of service that’s right for you. We’ve spoken to many people who said this wasn’t made clear at all by their solicitor.
3. What will it cost? Make sure they’re very clear on the cost and whether it includes VAT and expenses like the court fee – which solicitors sometimes call ‘disbursements’.
4. Will you charge by fixed fee, hourly rate or percentage? Be wary of services charging by hourly rate or percentage of the estate as you’re likely to pay more in the long run. One of the biggest reasons people complain about probate services is because the total cost wasn’t made clear upfront.
5. How long will it take? This can be a difficult question to answer for estate administration, as it can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years in the most complex cases. But for a grant of probate, you should be given a clear timescale, which will likely be a matter of weeks.
6. How will you keep me up to date? Communication is one of the biggest frustrations people have with solicitors, and it’s not unheard of for probate solicitors to go quiet for weeks without updating their clients. When you speak to probate providers for a quote over the phone, always make a point of finding out how they’re going to keep you up to date.
7. How can I contact you? Be clear on opening hours and whether you can contact them by phone, email or online chat.
Get a fixed-price probate quote today
At Wellbeing Services, we offer a grant-only probate service from just £565 – and we also provide a full estate administration service.
If you would like to speak to a professional about your situation and get a free quote over the phone, give us a call today on 01482 893258.
13) What is the inheritance tax threshold for 2020/21?
The inheritance tax threshold for 2020/21 is £325,000 – this is also known as the nil rate band. If you’re the executor or administrator of an estate worth over £325,000, you may need to arrange for inheritance tax to be paid. This is usually charged at 40%.
If more than 10% of the estate is left to charity, the inheritance tax rate may be reduced to 36%.
Does every estate have to pay inheritance tax?
The inheritance tax allowance doesn’t apply between spouses and civil partners domiciled in the UK. This means that, if the entire estate you’re dealing with has been left to the person’s spouse or civil partner, no inheritance tax will be owed – even if the estate is over £325,000.
Does everyone have the same inheritance tax threshold?
The short answer: no. It’s actually possible for many people to double their inheritance tax allowance to £650,000. If someone who is married leaves their entire estate to their spouse, their unused inheritance tax allowance of £325,000 will also pass to their partner. This effectively doubles the surviving spouse’s inheritance tax threshold to £650,000. The same benefit also applies to people in a civil partnership. This means that, if someone’s spouse or civil partner dies and leaves them their entire estate, the surviving partner’s inheritance tax allowance will effectively be £650,000.
How to avoid inheritance tax on property
It’s also possible to increase your inheritance tax allowance by leaving property to certain people. This is thanks to an additional tax allowance that was introduced by the government in April 2017.
If property is left to children, step-children or grandchildren – or any of their spouses or civil partners – the estate receives an additional inheritance tax allowance of £175,000. This effectively increases the inheritance tax allowance to £500,000. Just like the nil rate band, this can also be transferred between married or civil partners.
This means that, if a surviving spouse or civil partner leaves their property to their children after inheriting all their partner’s estate, the inheritance tax allowance will be £1,000,000.
Note: This additional allowance will increase every year in line with inflation, based on the Consumer Price Index.
Who pays inheritance tax?
If there is a will, the executor is responsible for paying the inheritance tax bill from the estate. If there isn’t a will, this is usually handled by the administrator.
Figuring out exactly how much inheritance tax is due can be difficult, so many people choose to use a professional probate service when dealing with their loved one’s estate.
Once the amount of inheritance tax owed has been calculated, this can either be paid from funds within the estate, money from the sale of assets, or through the Direct Payment Scheme (DPS). This is where inheritance tax is paid directly from the bank or building society of the person who died.
When do you need to pay inheritance tax?
Inheritance tax ideally needs to be paid by the end of the sixth month after your loved one’s death. After this point, HMRC will start charging interest. They may also charge late payment penalties, which can be as high as £3,000 if the payment is more than 12 months late. It’s therefore important to apply for probate and gain access to the estate as quickly as possible.
14) How to fill out IHT400
IHT400 is a government form that needs to be completed in England, Wales and Scotland if the estate is liable for inheritance tax. This is a long, complex document with multiple sections for different types of assets, allowing you and HMRC to work out how much inheritance tax is due.
Unless you’re very familiar with tax forms and financial paperwork, IHT400 can be an extremely stressful and time-consuming form to fill out. For this reason, many people choose to use a professional probate service instead.
If you think you may need to pay inheritance tax and want help working out how much is due, call our probate specialists today on 01482 893258. We can provide a free, no obligation quote in just a few minutes.