The question of pricing for probate services will no doubt become more prominent in the months ahead. Historically probate services have been provided by solicitors and banks. Banks have operated on the basis of a percentage of the estate. A Which? Survey last year found that the percentage is normally around 4%. Some solicitors charge on a similar percentage basis and others on the amount of time they spend on the case. There are no universal guidelines for solicitors so it is impossible to report any outcome other than that the range and variety of charges are enormous varying from a few hundred pounds to many thousands.
Two recent entrants into the market for probate services are the Co-Op and Saga. Both are trusted brands and can expect to receive a substantial number of instructions. Saga stated that their fees would be around 1% of the estate: in some cases this may represent fair value and in others it may not be fair. Take for example an estate consisting of an £800,000 house and £80,000 in the bank – the resultant fee including VAT would be £10,560.00. The Co-Op promises a fixed fee but it is not possible to work out from their published material how that is calculated. Another difference between the 2 organisations is that the Co-Op use in-house staff, whereas Saga appear to outsource the work to a firm of solicitors.
The problem that these providers of probate services will have to address is how to ensure that a quality personal service is provided within a business structure which depends on a huge quantity of instructions. Already there are indications in the blogosphere that all is not well: staff at the Co-Op probate services have complained about stressful workloads and the emphasis on selling probate services to the recently bereaved through their network of funeral parlours.
At Probaters we also struggle with how to get the pricing right. Executors and administrators want to know at the outset what the costs are going to be, but more than that they want to be sure that they are going to receive an efficient and helpful service. Our starting point is fairness. The fair has to be fair for the client and fair for us, and all times the service to the client has to be paramount.