If you have just lost a loved one, the last thing you want to worry about is expensive probate fees. If you have had no experience with legal matters before, all the jargon can leave your head spinning. It is understandable that you may be worried about legal costs, with many solicitors charging £200 per hour plus.
So it might be comforting to know that probate practitioners can offer a probate service for a much lower cost. In fact IWC Probate offers a fixed rate service, so that you know the exact probate fees upfront.
Applying for probate is fairly straightforward, if the deceased has made a will. You simply fill out the necessary forms, and send them to the Probate Registry with the application fee and wait for them to send you a grant of probate, permitting you to have access to the deceased’s finances.
Unfortunately, dealing with their financial affairs after probate has been granted is not always so simple. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is traumatic enough to begin with, and trying to sort out their estate at the same time can be a tough task, especially if some of it is in property or shares. Yet it can be tempting to try to do it yourself, to avoid massive solicitors fees.
Filling out the probate application and sending it off the probate registry can be done by the one of the executors of the will and it is generally straightforward enough. But if the deceased has other assets, in addition to what is in their bank accounts, dealing with their affairs after probate has been granted can be a different matter altogether.
Dealing with banks, financial institutions, obtaining money from debtors, and paying money to creditors can put the executors of a will under a huge amount of strain. Plus there is the worry that they may make mistakes.
On top of all that, they will also have to deal with HMRC, calculate any inheritance tax owing on the estate and distribute the proceeds of the estate to the deceased’s beneficiaries.
If you don’t feel confident in doing all that, or you simply can’t cope with the pressure, it is worth speaking to a probate practitioner about fixed probate fees. They will be able to deal with the deceased’s affairs on your behalf and you may be pleasantly surprised when you compare their rates against the costs of appointing a solicitor.
A case was publicised recently whereby a lady whose mother passed away only a few weeks ago, was sent a letter by HMRC notifying her that a £100 fine had been applied to her mother’s account, for failing to send in her self assessment tax return on time, for the year ending April 2011. HMRC also indicated that £10 each day was to be added to the fine until the end of April, should the initial fee not be paid in full.
The lady, who whilst her mother was alive, acted as power of attorney, was both horrified and confused.
As is usual, as part of the probate process, the daughter was required to identify any outstanding tax or creditors, but at that time, it was deemed that no tax was due and indeed it had been considered while the woman was alive, there was no reason to complete a self assessment form.
Concerned, as all the deceased’s bank accounts were frozen, there was no way for the woman to pay HMRC from her mother’s Estate.
On further investigation, HMRC revealed a letter had been sent out because the deceased had been expected to submit a tax return on receiving a small investment income. In addition, her daughter’s power of attorney status had not terminated on the death of her mother, as it should have done.
It apologised to the lady in question, blaming its automated systems, and admitted that no sums were in fact due.
If you receive such correspondence on behalf of a deceased person from HMRC and you feel it may be inaccurate, be sure to contact your dedicated probate professional.
IHT can cause significant stress and expense for beneficiaries or Trustees, who are responsible for the payment of this tax bill at the beginning of probate.