What Are Probate Disbursements You Will Be Charged?

Probate disbursementsProbate Disbursements are generally costs paid out by professional practitioners on behalf of the estate. See also Probate Jargon.

A simpler description would be “Third Party Costs in probate.” Don’t panic as we are trying to list as many disbursements as possible, so they are very unlikely all to apply in every case, but they are especially significant for smaller estates, though the practice of some lawyers charging not only hourly rates but also on top a percentage responsibility allowance can triple the bill and is best avoided.  Contact us if you would like a recommendation for probate firm, or just general assistance (we can often answer general questions but don’t give legal advice). Third party costs in probate are always significant, but many are a matter of choice or dealing with a firm who is happy to explain which ones are essential and which are just precautions, even if skeletons are unlikely to pop out of the wardrobe!

It is important to remember that many of the third party costs in probate will be payable even if you DIY, and many of the safety first ones will be missed out which will, occasionally, have catastrophic effects on the executors finances, perhaps years later.  In some senses, the addition of professional help is a bit of insurance against potential disaster as any errors are down to them (depending on what you instruct them to do or not to do of course).

So what probate disbursements might there be?

The one which applies in nearly all cases is the Probate Registry fee – currently £273 for all but estates under £5,000. Plus £1.50 for each additional copy to send to asset holders etc.

Another common one to protect the executors from unknown creditors later turning up and demanding that the executor pay up (perhaps personally) is a notice in the Gazette and local paper where the deceased lived, and if they had a business may be in trade papers too.  In normal cases, this is likely to cost from a little over £200.   It is not a requirement, just a precaution. This is often the reason why payments to beneficiaries are delayed by 6 months after the adverts have been published, at which point creditors may be too late to claim against the executors.  Caution should be exercised if there is any possibility of anyone contesting the Will.

It is common to do a Will Search, just in case there is an unknown Will, or one signed later than that which the executors have.  Imagine the issues if the older Will had been probated and paid out, then a later one, with entirely different beneficiaries turns up! Cost £45 to £114.

Missing beneficiary.   Sometimes no one knows where a beneficiary is, and it is unwise to ignore them, so a documented search is needed and perhaps Missing Beneficiary Insurance.

Identity Verification – these days, everyone is suspected of being a drug baron or terrorist, so law firms must check the identities of executors and beneficiaries, as well as checking that none of the beneficiaries are bankrupt, in which case their Trustee in Bankruptcies permission must be sought before they are paid anything. The cost may be around £10 per person initially, though bankrupt beneficiaries will inevitably involve more work.

Land Registry Searches are usually £3 to £6 per property, but conveyancing fees are quite separate.

Postage – some firms charge for each letter as part of their fees, some will charge for stamps, and more reasonably, where Special or Recorded Delivery is needed which involves a special trip to the Post Office. It is common to levy a substantial extra charge per letter to cover secretarial time.

Bank Transfers again, some firms charge for these, perhaps £35 to £50 each, and overseas transfers can be both more fraught, more expensive, and slower – even to the U.S.

Copying – we have even seen some firms who charge for photocopying!

Phone calls:  be aware that where it is not a fixed fee, every incoming phone call may be counted as a 6 minute unit – even if it is just to tell a beneficiary that they cannot be given any information.  Always ensure that beneficiaries are aware that only the executors are entitled to ask them questions or chase them.  Many a surprisingly large bill has been created by demanding beneficiaries, often in dire need of funds.  Make sure they know to contact you as an executor rather than the law firm who cannot help them but will charge for the time.

Probate disbursements: Valuation fees: for property and assets which might be of value.

Insurance: property and perhaps contents insurance

Property maintenance and clearance. This can include organising regular visits to keep the insurance valid, plumbers to drain water and central heating, locksmiths to change locks, essential gardening to maintain value etc.

Property sales: any estate agents and conveyancing fees are an extra cost. If the property is transferred to the executors or beneficiaries that will be a cost.

Missing beneficiaries: tracing services and missing beneficiary insurance if they are not found.

Overseas assets (including US shares which are quite common)will usually involve using overseas professionals and the estate paying the costs.

Trusts: trusts set up in the Will create additional work. Existing trusts may reduce some work but will incur some costs.

Professional Indemnity Fees: these are large bills paid by lawyers to protect them if something goes wrong.  We have seen forms charge a proportion of that to Probate clients.

Set up fees: some firms charge a flat fee for setting up the file, which means (often) you are paying a share of the cost of the software they use.

Document copies: Copies of Grant of Probate (per copy) – £1.50.  Death and Marriage certificates £14 each.

No doubt some readers will find some more examples of probate disbursements – feel free to let me know!

More probate jargon.