5 Ways to Reduce Probate Fees

The majority of executors and representatives in the UK use a professional to apply for probate and administer the deceased estate on their behalf.

At a time of bereavement, probate fees may be the last thing on your mind. However, as executor, you have a legal obligation to keep costs down and preserve the inheritance for the beneficiaries.

Here are 5 ways you can keep probate costs to a minimum.

1. Obtain multiple quotes

There is massive variation in probate legal fees. The Office of Fair Trading calculated that UK consumers are overspending by £40 million a year on probate fees, by failing to shop around. Which? obtained quotes from 4 different high street banks and found that on a £350,000 estate, the difference in estate administration fees was a staggering £8750. Therefore it pays to get at least 3 quotes, just make sure you compare like-for-like services.

2. Renounce unwanted executors

There is a widely publicised phenomenon known as ‘baiting,’ where will writers write themselves into a will as executor and then charge exorbitant fees for probate. Some companies even write wills as a ‘loss leader,’ and make their money from a healthy slice of the deceased estate. If you are in the situation, get professional advice immediately to get them to renounce their executorship.

3. Choose a fixed fee probate service

Never give a company the green light to charge whatever they see fit; you could be in for a nasty shock when the final bill arrives. Always get a fixed price and find out exactly what’s included. Read all the small print to ensure there are no hidden extras.

4. Do not use a company that calculates their fee as a percentage of the estate

This can work out a lot more expensive. Besides, it’s not necessarily a fair way to calculate fees because it’s not based on the amount of work that must be carried out. For example 3 bank accounts take more work to administer than 1, no matter how much money is involved.

5. Consider applying for probate independently

It is not a legal requirement to use a solicitor to handle probate. If it’s a straightforward case, you could consider doing it yourself to save money on fees. In some circumstances, this is not recommended, especially for intestate deaths or large, complicated estates. If you decide to go down this route, there are DIY kits available which contain everything you need to complete the process. Another alternative is to obtain the grant yourself, then appoint a professional to handle the estate administration process.

Aside from saving money on probate fees, make sure the probate company you choose are qualified. Unfortunately the industry is not regulated and a practitioner does not need to be a qualified lawyer to offer these services. On the flip-side, some solicitors do not have the specialised experience to handle probate matters. The best advice is to choose a firm that is regulated by the Society of Will Writers and Estate Planning Practitioners.

Saving Money on Divorce Legal Fees

The cost of the legal fees involved is one of the things that concerns people the most about a divorce. Many families are already struggling to pay their daily living expenses and regular monthly bills. When a couple decides to divorce, the cost of the entire process could end up being tens of thousands of dollars. When added up, the legal fees and other expenses associated with divorce can be overwhelming, especially in the current economy.

However, it may be possible to do the divorce yourself if you and your spouse do not have children and can communicate well enough to agree on property division. To make sure that the documents are correctly prepared and you have the correct documents to file with the Court, feel free to ask for assistance from any Court Assistance Office near you. Some areas have an “attorney workshop” were you can go and ask an attorney questions about the law. However, doing your divorce by yourself should only happen if you and your spouse are in full agreement about the things related to divorcing such as who will get certain property, who will remain in the home and who will pay which outstanding bills.

By mediating your divorce, there is a greater chance of the process being a less expensive one compared to litigation. Throughout the entire process, a neutral third-party mediator can help you discuss and come to an agreement on the issues related to your divorce. This saves time and money that would normally be spent on attorneys in court arguing the case. In any divorce mediation case, it is helpful for the parties to have some form of open communication, although the process is still most often effective even where disputes exist.

When you do use an attorney, divorce expenses can be reduced by the clients doing most of the legwork on gathering evidence, and providing full and complete information as requested by your attorney. The more time you can do instead of your attorney or the assisting paralegal, the more you will save. If unsure of what you can do on your own, you can ask the mediator for processes and services that you can save money on. When you and your spouse agree to be more involved in the proceedings and take initiative to do things on your own, your divorce will be resolved faster and thus becomes less of a money pit.

Attorney Fees – Part 4 – Other Legal Fees

This is Part 4 of this 4-part article. Please refer to the other 3 parts to read this article in full.

In addition to your attorney fees, you may be required to pay some or all of these extra expenses or otherwise referred to as legal fees:

– Filing fees,
– Per page or flat fee for word processing, photocopying and fax,
– Secretarial time,
– Overtime,
– Telephone charges,
– Courier, postage, and overnight delivery charges,
– Reporter charges for recording testimony and providing a written script of the same,
– Court fees and other court costs,
– Lawyer travel expanses, including gasoline, mileage, parking fees, meals, airfare and lodging,
– Expert and consultant fees,
– Investigator fees,
– Jury fees and mileage fees (set by law) if you request a jury for your case. These expenses must be paid in advance,
– Service fees for people who locate witnesses and other parties involved in the case and deliver legal papers to them,
– Witness fees and mileage charges for people who testify at depositions and trials. These amounts are set by law. You also may need to pay travel expenses if a witness must be brought in from far away,
– Other fees related to your case.

Make sure that you’re not taken by surprise with any hidden costs or expenses. It would be wise to discuss them with your potential lawyer before you actually hire him or her. Also, you need to find out if you are going to be responsible for paying these costs directly as they arise or if you are going to have to reimburse your lawyer for these expenses that he or she may pay on your behalf. It would be in your best interest to ask for a written estimate of all anticipated additional costs. You can also determine a certain dollar amount and tell your lawyer that costs over that amount have to be approved by you in advance.

Your Legal Bill

Unless your case is under a contingency fee agreement, your lawyer would probably bill you monthly unless agreed upon otherwise between the two of you. As mentioned before, if you’re paying your lawyer hourly, you may want to establish a cap or a limit at which your lawyer needs to get your permission before spending more.

When you receive your legal bill, you need to take your time going over it. You do have the right to get itemized bills that would show you how your lawyer has spent his or her time on your case. The bill needs to show your lawyer’s fees and expenses with an appropriate explanation for each. For instance, if you’ve been charged 6 hours for a research time, your bill needs to spell out what exactly was being researched. If it doesn’t, you need to ask your lawyer for specifics. If something seems suspicious, don’t automatically accuse your attorney. Just give him or her a call and ask for an explanation. Even if it was a justified charge, this will let your lawyer know that you’re paying a very close attention, which is totally within your rights.

You can get on a fee payment schedule. This is a monthly payment plan which allows you to pay an expected sum every month on the balance of your bill. But, be careful with this. In general the attorney would charge interest on the remaining balance. And that’s more money out of your pocket. Many attorneys will arrange a fee payment schedule after they have received a retainer from the client.

And last but not least, lawyers are just humans as we all are. All humans make mistakes every now and then – lawyers too. Don’t be afraid to pull out your calculator and check the math on your bill. If you find that the numbers are not adding up, simply bring it to your lawyer’s attention. Anytime you think your lawyer’s bill contains an error or something that you don’t agree with, contact your lawyer immediately and try to resolve the discrepancy.

Not Being Able to Pay the Bill

If you cannot afford paying your lawyer’s bill, contact your lawyer immediately (don’t wait) to see if you can make any payment arrangements. You could ask your lawyer to postpone work temporarily until you can pay the bill. However, if you cannot reach an agreement, your lawyer may be entitled to stop working on your case. In some cases, your lawyer may acquire a lien on your house or property to secure their fee. So, it is recommended for you to come up with a plan on finding the funds necessary to pay your attorney.

Reducing Your Legal Costs

Time is money when it comes to legal fees. By answering your lawyer’s questions fully and honestly, you will save time and also help your lawyer do a better job. Regardless of how embarrassing or how uncomfortable your answer is, by not providing your lawyer all of the needed facts, he or she would need to spend more time figuring out those details, which will cost you more money. Remember that the ethics of the profession bind your lawyer to maintain in the strictest confidence almost anything you reveal during your private discussions. So, by providing your lawyer all of the needed information, you will save a lot of time, which on the other hand will reduce your legal costs.

Also, offer your time. Let your lawyer know that you are willing to help out, such as picking up or delivering documents, making phone calls, faxing documents and such. Instead of paying for an overpriced hourly rate for someone else to do it, by you doing some everyday general tasks, you can reduce your legal costs tremendously.

Disclaimer: The author and publisher of this article have done their best to give you useful, informative and accurate information. This article does not represent nor replace the legal advice you need to get from a lawyer, or other professional if the content of the article involves an issue you are facing. Laws vary from state-to-state and change from time-to-time. Always consult with a qualified professional before making any decisions about the issues described in this article. Thank you.