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What you need to know about our Probate services

What is “Probate”?

“Probate” is the general term often used to describe the winding up the estate of somebody who has died. If the deceased person left a Will then the administering of the Estate is undertaken by “Executors”. These are people who the deceased person nominated in their Will. The executors are tasked with obtaining a Grant of Probate enabling them to administer the estate.

If the deceased person did not leave a Will then their estate will need to be administered under the rules of Intestacy. The people responsible for undertaking the winding up of the estate are, in this instance, called “Administrators”. The law states who should be appointed as administrators and it may be different in each case. The Administrators are tasked with obtaining a Grant of Letters of Administration.

Collectively the people responsible for administering an estate are called Personal Representatives (PR’s) and a Grant is generally referred to as a “Grant of Representation.”

Unless an estate is of very low value (in which case, informal procedures may apply) the following steps in order to obtain a Grant of Representation:

Value the estate

This involves getting detailed figures for the assets and liabilities of the estate at the date of death of the deceased. This includes all bank statements, investments and property values, as well as shares, and business interests etc.

Apply for the Grant of Representation

In order to apply for the Grant the information obtained under step 1 above must be reported on the appropriate IHT Form to HMRC/the Probate Registry, and an Oath drawn up summarising the detail of the estate must be signed as true by the Personal Representatives. If there is inheritance tax to pay it must be paid at this stage before the application for the Grant is made. This may involve raising funds to meet the tax liability.

Collect in all the assets

Once a Grant has been obtained the assets of the estate can be collected in, being liquidated into cash if required.

Discharge all liabilities

Once sufficient assets become available the liabilities of the estate must be settled.

Settle any legacies

Any legacies set out in the Will, if there is one, must be paid to the appropriate people and the Executors should obtain a receipt for payment to discharge their liability in this respect.

Make final distributions and produce an Estate Account

Towards the end of the administration the PR’s need to ensure all tax liability is settled, and all liabilities discharged. Once this has happened and all legacies have been settled the PR’s can then distribute the residuary estate to those people entitled. They should prepare an account showing the financial aspects of the administration of the estate before finalising matters and bringing the administration to a close.

Consider any trusts established under the Will or Intestacy

If a Trust has been set up in the Will or under the intestacy rules then the Executors need to liaise with the Trustees (who may be the same people but not necessarily) regarding setting up the Trust and all the formalities that must be followed in respect of the management and operation of the Trust. Hardmans would advise the Trustees as to their legal requirements in this regard including obligations owed to HM Revenue and Customs. This includes whether or not any Trust interest needs to be registered on HMRC Trust Portal under the Trust Registration Service.

A grant of representation is not always needed, for example, if the person who died has left less than £5000 in total or owned everything jointly with someone else. However, some financial organisations may require a grant before giving you access even to a small amount of money. What is required will depend on the individual circumstances of each case. Hardmans provide bespoke advice regarding such matters when acting for PR’s and will deal with any individual issues on a case by case basis.

How long will Probate take?

It is very difficult to give a general idea of the time it will take to administer a person’s estate since every estate is different presents different issues. A simple estate, with perhaps 2 or 3 bank accounts, some premium bonds and some personal belongings may only take 4-8 weeks. However a larger estate, with many assets which may also include trust interests, business interests, faming assets or large share or property portfolios will take much longer – sometimes 12-18 months or longer if specific problems or issues need dealing with. If a claim is made against a person’s estate then this will also have an effect on the timescale, and will result in the matter taking longer to deal with than if no challenge was made. We will ensure that we give you our best estimate as to timescale at the beginning of the matter. If it transpires that there are reasons why the estimate will need to be revised, we will let you know.

How much will it cost?

We will look at the assets, liabilities and circumstances of each estate and provide a bespoke estimate of our costs of acting in the administration of the estate at the outset of the matter. If it transpires that more work is required than first anticipated we will revise our estimate and write to you to inform you of the reasons why we have had to review our original estimate. The average fees associated with the administration of an estate range from £2000 plus VAT (and disbursements) for a small estate, to around £5000-£8000 plus VAT (and disbursements) for an average-size estate.

Our costs

Our exact charges will be calculated mainly by reference on the time actually spent by Solicitor and other staff in respect of any work which they do on your behalf, unless a fixed fee is agreed with you (in which case this will be set out in our client care letter to you). This may include meetings with you and perhaps others; reading, preparing and working on papers; making and receiving telephone calls, emails and faxes and preparation of documents or perusal of documentation.

Routine letters, emails and faxes that we send and routine telephone calls that we make and received are charged at one tenth (1/10th) of the hourly rate. Routine letters, emails and faxes received are charged at one twentieth (1/20th) of the hourly rate. Other letters, email and calls are charged on a time spent basis. The current hourly rates are set out below. We will add VAT to these at the rate that applies when the work is done. At present VAT is currently charged at 20%.

Hourly Rates

Our hourly rates where a value element is being charged.

Fee EarnerHourly Rate
Eleanore Plews£225.00
Catherine Hobson£225.00
Andrew Law£225.00
Susanne Smith£170.00
Donna Hennessey£120.00
Secretary Clerking Rate£120.00
A lower hourly rate applies where a value element has been charged. This method of charging is only applicable in Probate matters.

Our hourly rates where no value element is being charged.

Fee EarnerHourly Rate
Eleanore Plews£250.00
Catherine Hobson£250.00
Andrew Law£250.00
Susanne Smith£180.00
Donna Hennessey£135.00
Secretary Clerking Rate£135.00

In most cases relating to the administration of an estate we charge a lower hourly rate plus a percentage of the value of the estate. The value element is calculated in accordance with the rates set out below:

Solicitor acting as ExecutorSolicitor not acting as Executor
Percentage charge in respect of the value of real property or land.0.75%0.5%
Percentage charge in respect of the rest of the Estate value (excluding property):
1) Up to £1,250,0001.25%1.00%
2) £1,250,001 – £4,000,0000.75%0.5%
3) Over £4,000,0000.5%0.25%


Disbursements are payments made to third parties and may include:- 

  • Probate Court fees – vary but in the region, currently of £273.00.
  • Statutory advertisement fees – £215.68 approximately.
  • Land Registry fees – approximately £6 plus VAT.
  • Electronic ID verification – £6-15 per person.
  • Bank Transfer fees – £10.00 – £40.00 per transaction.

Disbursements vary from case to case but we will inform the client of specific disbursements upon instruction, or as and when they arise if they are not readily identifiable at the outset.

The Government has indicated that it is going to increase probate charges so that they relate to the size of the estate. Further information is awaited.

Will Search

We recommend that you instruct us to carry out a search with “Certainty”, a company specialising in the voluntary registration of Wills, as to whether:-

  1. in the case of a suspected intestacy (i.e. no Will) there is in fact a Will, the identity of which is unknown at present.
  2. in cases where there is a Will, whether a later Will has been made.

The cost of a basic search with Certainty is £58.80 plus VAT. A more advanced search, which we recommend, is £126 plus VAT. These costs are payable from the Estate.

Financial Assets Search

We recommend a Financial Asset Search is carried out in relation to most estates. The cost of this search is £210.00. It is carried out by Inheritance Data Limited.

Our Probate Team

Our probate department is made up of Catherine Hobson and Andrew Law, both solicitors each with over 25 years’ experience. Catherine and Andrew are assisted by Susanne Smith and Donna Hennessey, who are experienced clerks, as well as various secretaries who provide valuable administrative support.

Information correct as at 29th September 2023.

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