How much does probate cost? It’s a popular question. How many people have an idea about the costs before they need to know?
I guess the majority of people use the traditional ways of finding out – asking family and friends, googling it or removing the plastic wrapping from the dusty yellow pages in the corner and ringing around.
The question people are really asking is “how much should probate cost?” But the answers to the two questions are different. Googling the question gets a mix of middle-man ‘brokers’ and government information on how to do it yourself. So your average executor may check out direct.gov and ask himself “can I handle the probate myself?” – many will – but if the answer is “no” then they have a choice: ring round the many numbers on the websites, use a solicitor they know or use the deceased’s bank service. You’ll notice that many of the websites won’t show their price because, whatever the method you use to ask the question, the answer people get is often “it depends”. It depends on how complex the estate is, how many assets the deceased had and, commonly, how large the estate is etc – a quick google search on the issue shows the issue has been around for a while.
But why? Nowadays it’s rare to pay for conveyancing services on an hourly basis, as consumers want to know how much they are going to pay before they commit themselves. If solicitors can do that for conveyancing, with all the third parties estate agents (boo) and mortgage lenders (hiss) involved, why can’t they for probate? And why does the amount of money in a bank account change the cost of dealing with it? Professional insurance costs do come into play but can’t justify adding thousands onto the cost: if you were paying 3% of the size of the estate, the cost of probate for a £500,000 estate could be £15,000.00, compared to £9,000.00 for a more complex £300,000.00 estate. What happens if you agree a percentage, as you think it’s a good deal and then some unknown account crops up, which doubles the value?
I think the lack of readily available information and the high level of banks’ and solicitors’ fees are linked. By the time you’ve finally got an answer from two to three businesses, people are tired and just accept that it’s the ‘market rate’; who wants to haggle when they have so much else to deal with?
Is it too much to ask for a quality, fixed-fee probate service from a solicitor? I don’t think so – which is why our fees are on our website.