How much will a solicitor charge to administer an Estate?
A guide to what you could be charged and disbursements
Probate and Estate Administration
Before that question can be answered you need to think about a few things.
Firstly, how complex is the estate and what are you expecting the solicitor to do. Before any Executor can gather in an Estate and distribute it under a Will, they are going to need a Grant of Probate, unless it is a very small estate with limited assets. That involves applying to the Probate Registry and, where there is Inheritance Tax (IHT) payable that must be paid before the Grant can be issued.
It may be that you are an Executor and it’s a simple estate which you are going to administer yourself, but you just need the solicitor to get the Grant of Probate for you. You can apply for a Grant of Probate yourself, but some people find it easier to employ a solicitor to obtain it. The cost of that is likely to be a lot cheaper than asking the solicitor to administer the estate too. However, to get the Grant of Probate it is likely that the solicitor will need to fill in Inheritance Tax forms with you, even if none ends up being payable. So, getting the Grant is not necessarily a quick, low-cost job.
If you need the solicitor to administer the estate for you, which would usually involve getting the Grant, gathering in the assets, and distributing the estate to beneficiaries, in accordance with the Will, or rules of Intestacy, then there would be further charges.
Typically, solicitors charge for this sort of work either as a percentage of the Estate, on an hourly rate or a fixed fee.
If it’s a percentage of the Estate it’s important to check whether that is the net or gross Estate, in other words before or after payment of the estate’s debts. So, if for example the solicitor was charging say 2% of the gross Estate and the Estate was worth £100,000 before debts, like funeral costs, then the fee would be £2000 plus VAT and disbursements.
A solicitor may charge an hourly rate instead and that would simply be how many hours they spend on the work multiplied by their hourly rate. The solicitor should give you a guide estimate of what they think it will cost on that basis and tell you if the estimate changes dramatically.
Finally, a solicitor may do it on a fixed fee. It’s important to check what that fixed fee includes and whether it will be varied if there are unexpected complexities. For example, if there is foreign property or complicated tax affairs solicitors will often want to charge more because that would be outside the scope of a simple estate.
How much solicitors charge varies around the country. Unsurprisingly solicitors in London and parts of the southeast can be more expensive than say, the North. For most Estates you do not have to see the solicitor in person so you could shop around and go to a solicitor who may not necessarily be local to you. It depends on what kind of service you want. You may want to see someone in person in which case it makes sense to look locally. But good service can of course still be delivered by phone, email, and nowadays increasingly video calls.
Finally, you need to be aware of the disbursements. These are the fees that must be paid to someone else to get the Grant of Probate and administer the Estate. They include Probate Registry fees and sometimes things like searches to find beneficiaries or assets. The solicitor should tell you what disbursements are likely to be incurred.
Solicitors are generally VAT registered so there will be VAT on their charges.
It is a good idea to get a clear estimate or guide from the solicitor of what the total costs are likely to be including their charges, disbursements and VAT. That is usually easier if it’s a percentage of the estate or a fixed fee but even then you need to be clear what those charges do and don’t cover, so that you are happy that you are getting everything done that you need doing for the charge.