Why should I use you instead of a firm of solicitors?
Quite simply, cost, speed and convenience!
Although I have over 29 years' experience dealing with Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney and Probate and Estates, I can charge far less than a firm of solicitors for this type of work because I do not have expensive offices or support staff (secretaries, accounts personnel etc.) to maintain. I can also usually produce the Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney or Probate papers a lot quicker than solicitors and I am happy to visit you at home at your convenience - even if that means evenings or weekends - at no extra charge.
You will get the same discretion and professionalism from me that you would get from a good firm of solicitors, but at a fraction of the cost.
I am also fully insured, with both Professional Indemnity and Public Liability cover.
What makes my Will legal?
I have been asked this a few times and what my clients meant was "Does my Will have to be registered somewhere?".
The simple answer is no. There is no requirement to register your Will anywhere and, unfortunately in my opinion, no official national Wills Register.
Can you store my Will for me?
Unfortunately I do not have Will storage facilities. However, you can either give it to your bank to hold for safekeeping, which is likely to incur an annual charge, or, for a one-off fee of £20, you can have it stored securely at the Probate Registry (the fee is payable to them, not to me). I can provide you with full details of how to do so or you can download the appropriate guidance form PA7 from this link (if the link doesn't work, just Google "Form PA7")
This is probably the closest we have to an official Wills register in the UK and many of my clients take advantage of it.
What are Mirror Wills?
These are Wills for couples which basically mirror each other and they are very common and popular. For example, they normally leave everything to the survivor on the first death and then to someone else (perhaps children or other relatives or charities) on the second death.
Do you offer a fixed fee for Probate work?
No. Although I offer fixed fees for Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney, I charge an hourly rate for Probate work and generally I would be very wary of anyone who does offer a fixed fee Probate service. In my experience, to offer a fixed fee you have to estimate, right at the beginning, how much work will be involved. As it is very difficult, if not impossible, to do so, the temptation is for the person carrying out the work to over-estimate to ensure that they don't end up out of pocket and, as a result, a fixed fee can often cost more than paying an hourly rate. Also, I have looked at some online companies which offer a fixed fee service and there are actually quite a few conditions attached which mean that in many cases the fee will not be fixed and you will end up paying additional charges.
At the time of writing this (April 2017), I am currently dealing with two Estates for each of which a well-known company quoted fixed fees of just under £5,900 to obtain the Grant of Probate and administer the Estate. One Estate is worth about £200,000 and the other about £300,000, so in neither case is there any Inheritance Tax to pay and I struggle to understand how such fees can be justified. Also, in each case it was a condition of the company that it be granted Power of Attorney by the Executors so the Grant of Probate would be issued direct to the company and it would be in control of all the money and assets throughout the whole process.
The smaller Estate is actually far more complex than the larger one (due to disagreements between the beneficiaries), but I expect my total fees in that case will be approximately £1,000 whilst my fees for the larger Estate will be less than £500.
I believe that my fees of £60 per hour are reasonable and very competitive and you only pay for the time I actually spend assisting you, whether that is an hour or so just to check the forms you have completed, or a bit longer to complete all the forms from information you supply. I can calculate the amount of Inheritance Tax which must be paid and advise you of the amounts and dates of the payments (if there is any Inheritance Tax to pay, at least part of it must be paid before you can even apply for the Grant of Probate). I can also assist you with the Estate's Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax computations if required.
How do you calculate your fees for Probate work?
Many (probably most) solicitors charge an hourly rate but then divide each hour into 10 units of 6 minutes each. This means that with an hourly rate of, for example, £240 (£200 + VAT), each unit costs you £24 and one unit is the minimum charge. Consequently, if you call your solicitors for something like a quick progress report and spend 3 minutes on the 'phone to them, it is very likely you will be charged for 6 minutes (£24). Similarly, if you spend 8 minutes on the 'phone you will probably be charged for 12 minutes (£48) and so on.
My hourly rate of £60 is £1 per minute and I do not round it up, so a 3 minute call to me will cost you £3 and an 8 minute call will be £8. This is a considerable saving compared to the examples above!
Will you collect the Estate's money from banks etc?
No. I do not hold any client money, so the Executor or Administrator of the Estate will have to open a bank account themselves into which the money can be paid (unless the Executor is also the only beneficiary, in which case he or she can just arrange to have the money paid straight into his or her own bank account). This is very straightforward and ensures that you remain in full control of the Estate's money and assets throughout the whole process. I can, however, guide you through closing the deceased's bank accounts, claiming any amounts due to the Estate, selling or transferring shareholdings etc. and, if you wish, I will prepare all the letters to banks and other institutions for you to sign. My aim is to make the whole process as simple and straightforward as possible for you.
Is there VAT on your fees?
No. My turnover is below the £85,000 threshold at which I would have to register for VAT.