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.