From deciding whether you need professional help at all, to working out how much you should pay, shopping around for probate services can be challenging. Here are some facts, figures and tips for comparing probate and estate administration services.
Professional probate services are used after about 50% of deaths in England and Wales (we know that from market research). So, half the time relatives sort things out themselves.
The most common reasons for using a professional are:
When we speak to relatives who have been faced with bereavement, we hear about varied experiences. Some instructed professionals to do the full estate administration (explained below) and regret paying so much money – in hindsight, they felt they could have done it themselves. But others do it themselves and wish they hadn’t, because of the worry of getting something wrong, or because it can be so time-consuming.
When you call us for the first time, the first thing we’ll do is help you work out if you need professional help. We never assume you do.
The big distinction to bear in mind with professional services is between probate and estate administration.
Probate is a piece of paper issued by HM Courts Service. It proves that certain people (for example, executors) have the authority to deal with the assets of someone who’s died. Banks often need it before they can release funds and it’s also required if a house has to be sold. To get probate, various forms have to be filled out – which can be tricky if you’re not used to the jargon or worried about making mistakes.
Estate administration, by contrast, is everything that has to be done to sort out someone’s affairs — not just probate. It could mean calling up banks, filling out their forms, dealing with the family, paying debts, closing accounts, sorting out pensions, selling shares, collecting in funds, clearing the house, selling the house, paying everything out to the beneficiaries, and so on. It’s whatever has to be done. It can be complicated, but in most cases it’s just very time-consuming.
The distinction is important because you could be paying a few hundred pounds for probate or £3,450 (if not more) for estate administration.
There’s no right answer.
If the estate is simpler and you have some spare time, but you’d like help with the more complicated, legal, jargony bit, you might be best finding a service which just offers probate.
If the estate is complicated, you have little spare time, and you want professional support from start to finish, this could be a case for estate administration.
Solicitors and other professionals often offer both, so it’s best to ask them about the options upfront.
Our research shows that professional probate services (i.e. just getting probate) cost on average £1,400. By contrast, 75% of Farewill customers pay just £345.
Market research from the Legal Services Board suggests that estate administration services average out at about £2,450, but if charged by hourly rate or a percentage this rises to £4,950. And many solicitors and banks would charge considerably more. A £10,000 estimate for estate administration is not unheard of. The variation in pricing is enormous.
Some people have called Farewill to query our prices, not believing it can be so much cheaper than the £5,000 quote they’ve had from a high street solicitor. But this may, in part, be because they’re not comparing like–for–like services.
When shopping around, ask specific questions from the professional about the service and what you’ll be getting for your money, so you can make an informed comparison.
Research from the Legal Services Consumer Panel says only 16% of people shop around for professional probate / estate administration services. That compares with 27% for legal services in general (and that’s still low compared to other industries like insurance).
Given the huge variation in both pricing and service, we highly recommend shopping around.
You may find, for example, that your local solicitor offers a face–to–face meeting, but wouldn’t be available at evenings or weekends and could charge by hourly rate. At Farewill, we provide a fixed, upfront quote, we’re available 6 days a week until 7pm for support by email, chat or phone, and all our probate submissions are handled by regulated solicitors.
We encourage you to find the service that’s best for you and your family.
To shop around successfully and choose the best service for you, consider calling up 2 or 3 services, maybe including a local solicitor and Farewill, and asking the following questions. The answers should help you make a useful comparison.
Before making your final decision, it's also worth looking up reviews online to see what other people have said about their service. Research shows that reputation and quality are the two biggest influencing factors when choosing a probate service.
I hope this helps you choose the right service for you!
If you’d like to speak to someone about your options and find out more about how Farewill can help, please call us on 020 3695 1713 or see other ways to get in touch.
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