Probate

Cost-effective support when you really need it

Probate can be daunting, especially if you’re time-pressured or worried about solicitors’ fees spiralling out of control. Thankfully there’s a simpler and more cost-effective option: ask us to help you.

Although accountants are now regulated to carry out non-contentious probate work, few local firms are qualified to do so. Fortunately we are qualified in this area, so we’re able to support our clients in ways other general practices can’t.

It’s our job to look after our individual clients as much as we can. Whilst we don’t write Wills, we can administer an estate for you and help you through what can be a complicated and distressing process.

Unlike solicitors and banks we may already know the finances involved and can tell you how much tax is due. 

What is Probate?

Probate is the official proving of a Will. It is carried out by an executor – the person appointed to administer a person’s estate when they die. This could be a family member, friend, accountant, or other professional specified in the Will. If there is no valid Will, then there are rules to decide who should administer the estate.

Before assets can be distributed, the person administering the Will must apply to the probate registry for a ‘grant of representation’. Probate is, in essence, the process of obtaining this grant so the terms of the Will can be carried out.

Is a grant of Probate always required?

Normally yes. But there are some exceptions. For example, when the deceased’s assets are worth less than £5,000 or when a property passes directly to a spouse who is a joint tenant. However, it’s always best to check with your professional adviser before assuming that probate is not required.

How long does it take?

The timescale for probate applications varies greatly. It depends on the complexity of the estate. As a general guide it can take between three and twelve months.

Grant only services

In some cases it’s possible for executors to administer a straightforward estate by themselves. If this applies to you, please talk to us about our grant only service which costs as little as £500 plus VAT. Please see ‘Our Fees’ below for more information.

How your accountant can help

Accountants have traditionally been able to assist with preparing the grant of probate – particularly the Inheritance Tax Return. However, until recently they were not able to file for the grant of probate itself. This was a legal service reserved for solicitors.

This all changed in 2018 when the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) became an approved regulator for probate services. This means that accountants like us can obtain a licence to provide a full probate service – either as a standalone service or working alongside legal professionals.

The benefits of our service

We are in an ideal position to deal with probate and estate administration because we really appreciate the financial and tax affairs of all our clients. We also have a real appreciation of the deceased’s intentions plus, in many cases, an existing relationship with family members acting as executors.

This familiarity is a real advantage. Indeed, our advice and support can really help to relieve the pressure at what’s bound to be a difficult time.

Talk to us about:

  • Paying the right amount of Inheritance Tax
  • Lightening the administrative burdens
  • Making complex estates simpler to deal with
  • Limiting solicitor and banking fees
  • Speeding up the probate process
  • The benefits of knowing your financial history

Our Fees

Probate can be a distressing time so we make our fees as transparent as possible. There are two stages to resolving someone’s estate and we price our fees separately for each stage.

Stage 1 – Obtain Grant of Probate

Before the executors can distribute the deceased’s estate, they must first obtain permission from the probate registry. This involves the following:

  1. Locating the Will and checking it’s validity.
  2. Gathering details and values of all assets (i.e. property, bank accounts etc.) owned at the date of death.
  3. Obtaining details of any liabilities outstanding (i.e. mortgages, loans, credit cards, taxes etc.) at the date of death.
  4. Identifying any potentially taxable gifts made in the 7 years before death.
  5. Completing all relevant Inheritance Tax forms to send to the probate registry.

For simpler estates with no Inheritance Tax payable (typically estates valued up to £500,000 where a property is involved) our fee will be £500 plus VAT plus disbursements*.

For higher value estates with Inheritance Tax payable our fee will be £1,000 plus VAT plus disbursements*.

* Please note that in all cases our fees exclude VAT and disbursements. As a minimum, a probate application fee of £215 is payable to the registry office

Stage 2 – Administering the estate

Once the probate registry processes the forms from Stage 1, they will issue a ‘grant of representation’ which allows the estate to be distributed.

The next steps are as follows:

  1. Administering the estate:
    • Dealing with notifications of the death to financial and other institutions
    • Collecting assets (arranging for assets to be sold, close bank accounts etc.)
    • Settling any liabilities (mortgages, utility bills, taxes etc.)
  2. Preparing the estate accounts.
  3. Dealing with distributions to beneficiaries.

Although executors and representatives may be able to administer simpler estates themselves, the process can be a very time consuming and stressful one. Therefore it’s often prudent to appoint a professional firm like ourselves to help.

This stage of the process is different for every estate and therefore our costs are calculated on a time basis which varies according to the complexity of the work.

However, we will cap our fees at a certain level to give you some reassurance and certainty. This way you’ll know the absolute maximum that our fee will be.

Ensuring fairness

Most solicitors and banks will charge a fixed percentage (normally 2% or more) of the value of an estate – regardless of the complexity. Therefore, you are likely to pay an unfair premium if the estate is straightforward.

For example, a 2% fee for a simple estate valued at £300,000 with two bank accounts and a pension would cost £6,000 plus VAT. By comparison, our charges based on the anticipated time required would be approximately £1,250 to £1,875 plus VAT.

Estate Planning

Thinking about the practical, legal and financial consequences of your passing now can save your family a great deal of stress and uncertainty in the future.

Our team of experienced probate advisers are here to answer any questions you may have, and help you develop a plan in the most straightforward and sensitive manner possible.

Executorships

As licensed probate accountants, we can act as executors if you’d prefer a professional to help your family deal with probate and estate administration.

Advice on the content of Wills

We work closely with local experts to craft your Will, so you can be confident that your money, property and valued possessions will go exactly where you want them to go. 

Inheritance Tax planning

Smart planning now can save you thousands later. Talk to us about softening the blow of Inheritance Tax for your loved ones.

Estate planning and gifts

We ensure that clients get the most from their assets before and after passing. We can also advise on the use of gifts as a way to mitigate IHT.

Creation, management and termination of trusts

Trusts are flexible and give you the freedom to choose how and when your beneficiaries receive the funds.

Our team work with local experts to advise on and set-up trusts. We can oversee the entire process from start to finish and then look after the ongoing reporting and taxation of the trust.

Succession / exit planning

As a business owner, you must have an effective exit plan in place. We can help you with everything from deciding how your shares are dealt with to looking at key people who could take over the business.

Trusted advice, friendly service

We understand that planning ahead can be a delicate subject. But doing this now rather than later will ensure that your wishes are met and your family will be looked after in the future.

To discuss how we can help you and your loved ones please get in touch today. Our team are just a phone call away.

Sue Alder

Client stories

"Auker Hutton made a huge effort to understand our business and what makes us unique. They’re more than accountants to us. They’re really invested in our success and have become an integral part of our team"

Sue Alder

Sue Alder

Engaging Kent CIC, Tunbridge Wells & London

Phone us on 01892 891902 or contact us to talk about your financial plans