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How Much Do Solicitors Charge for Probate?

When a loved one passes away, dealing with their estate through the probate process can feel like an overwhelming task on top of the emotional turmoil. Hiring a solicitor to handle the legal complexities provides some peace of mind but also raises questions around costs. 

How much can you expect to pay solicitors for probate services? And what factors influence those fees? Here, we look at the various probate fee structures and costs involved so you know what to budget for.

How solicitors charge for probate services

There are three main ways solicitors typically structure their fees for handling probate matters. 

Fixed fee

One of the most straightforward approaches is for probate solicitors to charge an upfront, fixed fee for their services based on the expected complexity of the estate. This provides cost certainty from the outset.

Fixed fees can range anywhere from:

  • £1,000 to £3,000 for relatively simple estates with few assets
  • £10,000 to £20,000 for high value, complex estates with multiple properties, accounts, business interests and other complicating factors

The fixed fee amount quotes cover all legal work required to fully administer and distribute the estate through probate, including obtaining the grant of probate itself.

While handy for budgeting purposes, fixed fees run the risk of underestimating an estate’s true complexity. If unexpected issues arise during probate, solicitors may request additional top-up fees beyond the original quote.

Percentage of estate value

Another very common probate fee structure is for solicitors to charge fees calculated as a percentage of the total gross estate value being administered. Typical percentage ranges are:

  • 1% to 3% for higher value estates over £500,000
  • 3% to 5% for lower value estates under £500,000

So for example, if an estate is valued at £800,000, a 2% percentage fee would equate to £16,000 in legal costs.

Percentage fees can make costs unpredictable for the client, meaning this approach does create an incentive for solicitors to maximise the amount passed on to beneficiaries rather than rushing to finalise distributions.

Hourly rates

The third, more open-ended fee model is for probate solicitors to simply charge their standard hourly rates for time spent working on the estate administration.

Hourly rates can vary significantly based on a solicitor’s experience level, overhead costs, area of practice and other factors. But some basic ranges for probate include:

  • £150 to £250 per hour for junior associates and paralegals
  • £250 to £350 per hour for senior solicitors and partners

While potentially the most accurate charge based on actual time invested, hourly rates create major uncertainty around total costs. Even relatively straightforward estates can easily run up thousands in fees if the matter drags on.

For this reason, the majority of people prefer fixed fees or percentage models to provide predictability on probate costs from day one.

What services are included?

Regardless of which fee structure a probate solicitor follows, there are two key levels of service they can provide:

Grant of probate only

The most basic level involves simply obtaining the grant of probate document on a client’s behalf, proving they have legal authority to deal with the deceased’s estate.

Fees for grant-only services can range from £500 up to around £2,000 depending on solicitor rates and any complications securing the grant itself.

Full estate administration

For estates of even moderate value or complexity, most executors opt to also have solicitors handle all administrative aspects like:

  • Identifying, valuing and reporting all estate assets
  • Settling any outstanding debts or bills from the estate
  • Calculating and paying inheritance tax liabilities
  • Distributing assets according to the will
  • Setting up any trusts outlined in the will
  • Preparing estate accounts for beneficiaries

Due to the extensive work involved, fees for full estate administration through probate generally start around £1,200 on the low end but can reach £25,000 or more for larger, tax-complicated estates requiring months or years of legal work.

For example, administration fees for a small £300,000 estate may total around £7,500 including the solicitor’s legal fees, their VAT charges and the £273 probate court fee paid upfront to obtain the grant of probate.

Additional disbursements

On top of solicitors’ legal fees, there are also a number of common disbursements and third-party costs that frequently arise during probate. These include charges like:

  • Official copies of probate and title documents—£1.50-plus per copy
  • Bankruptcy searches on all beneficiaries—£3.90 per search
  • Property valuations for any real estate—£200-plus per property
  • Statutory advertisements protecting against unknown creditors—£150 to £300-plus
  • Capital gains and income tax return filing fees

Disbursements can easily add £500 to £2,000 more in extra costs depending on an estate’s makeup. They are typically charged in addition to whatever fee structure the solicitor has in place.

So in total, clients can realistically expect to budget £2,000 to £30,000-plus for all costs when hiring a solicitor to fully administer even a moderately valuable estate through probate.

Factors influencing costs

While the figures above represent common cost ranges, there are several factors that can cause probate fees to increase significantly:

Estate complexity and value

Larger, higher value estates with multiple real estate holdings, investment accounts, business interests and other valuable assets demand far more legal work to administer. This elevates costs.

Similarly, estates involving foreign assets, complex trust structures or other complications will take more solicitor time and drive up fees, even on percentage models.

Inheritance tax

If the deceased’s estate is liable for HMRC inheritance taxes, there is a great deal more legal work and documentation required to handle returns, valuations, potential tax planning and payment from the estate. This service drives up costs substantially.

Disputes and litigation

Family disputes over estate distributions, poorly written wills that require legal interpretation and any other litigation-related matters will increase the amount of legal fees an estate must pay solicitors to handle and defend.

Fees for a very simple, tax-exempt estate may be just £2,000-£3,000, but complex situations like these can easily spiral into six-figure solicitors costs if lengthy court battles are required.

Comparing quotes

With such wide fee variability, experts strongly recommend comparing probate quotes upfront from multiple solicitors before engaging their services.

Getting two to three fee estimates and clearly understanding the structures gives you a sense for outliers versus averages. But also evaluate factors like solicitors’ experience level and track record administering estates comparable to the one you’re dealing with.

Having realistic cost expectations from the outset can save major headaches later if fees unexpectedly balloon down the road.

For straightforward estates, more budget-friendly options include:

  • Using a specialised probate firm rather than a general high street solicitor
  • Comparing fixed fee providers to ensure a cost-effective option
  • Considering limited “grant-only” services if you can self-administer distributions

But for complex, high value estates over £500,000 or those involving inheritance tax, hiring an experienced private client solicitor at a top firm may provide better overall value despite higher upfront costs baked in. They can help minimise tax liabilities and navigate complicated situations more deftly.

So when it comes to probate legal fees, being an informed consumer is crucial. With the right expectations and some savvy comparison shopping, you can engage professional legal help to ease the burden of estate administration without any nasty surprise costs down the line.

The free probate solution

If you don’t have the means to suddenly start paying lots of legal fees upon the passing away of a loved one, there is a free option. It only applies if part of the estate includes a UK property that you would ultimately be looking to sell. 

How it works is this: Our company, Property Rescue, will front all the solicitor’s costs to handle the probate for you, but on the proviso that you sell us the house/flat after probate is granted.

The price of the legal costs will be deducted from the cash price we pay you for the property. So, you won’t have any upfront costs.

The other benefit will be that once probate is granted, we’ll buy your house immediately and directly from you, so there won’t be any hassle in selling it.

If this sounds interesting, go ahead and get your free, no-obligation cash offer for the probate property now.

 

Danny Nieberg

I have deep knowledge and experience in the property sector having worked in the industry for many years. I oversee several brands within our group. My experience encompasses high volume property trading, management of residential and commercial property portfolios, and property development.

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