Tony Crocker

Tony Crocker is Director of IWC Estate Planning & Management Ltd. With over 15 years’ experience, he is knowledgeable and proficient in all matters regarding Probate, Will writing, Estate Planning and Inheritance tax avoidance. In addition, he has a wealth of experience in dealing with estate settlements and issues with the capital taxes office in the event of bereavement. As a member of the Society of Will Writers & Estate Planning Practitioners, he is widely respected within the field, having helped many people at difficult points in their lives through complex probate and tax issues. Tony Crocker

Some Advice About Fixed Fee Probate

grant of probate Some Advice About Fixed Fee ProbateIf someone close to you has passed away, the chances are, you’re not in the best mind-set to consider all the financial implications of death. When faced with probate, the first task for many families is to appoint a professional to deal with the legal and financial aspects on their behalf.
 
It is wise to agree a price for probate services in advance, so you know exactly what the legal costs will be. Here are some questions to ask to ensure you appoint the right practitioner when looking for a fixed fee probate company.
 
Are they Qualified?
 
Unfortunately, there are no legal requirements for firms to offer probate and will writing services. Therefore you may find that a practitioner offering a cheap fixed fee does not have any legal qualifications. Choose a STEP member (The Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners) to ensure that the company has the appropriate qualifications.
 
Are they Reputable?
 
They may have a professional website but do they have the reputation to back up their claims? Study reviews, testimonials and do a check on the company to make sure they’ve no skeletons. Make sure they are fully insured too.
 
Is the Fixed Fee a Percentage of the Estate?
 
A company may quote a fixed fee but if this is calculated as a percentage of the estate value, you could be paying much more than you need too. Companies and financial institutions that do this tend to charge between 1-4% of the estate which can work out extremely costly. Choose a firm that calculates fees fairly, based on the amount of work they have to do. If you have a high value estate that is relatively straight-forward, eg just 2 beneficiaries with funds contained in 1 or 2 bank accounts, you have the potential to save thousands.
 
What about Extra Charges?
 
Double check and read all small print that the fee is indeed fixed. Some companies will charge a fixed fee then add £s onto the final bill. This could be a fixed fee plus an hourly rate or fixed fee probate but hourly rates for administrating the estate.
 
Will they Provide Free Advice Whilst Dealing with your Case?
 
Probate can be a long, drawn out affair. In some cases in can last years. If your case is relatively complicated or you feel there may be a dispute, ensure you’ll not be charged any extra for further legal advice and help. Once again, it’s imperative to find out exactly what the service includes. You need to be able to pick up the phone to the practitioner and know you’re not on a meter each time you need an update or little extra help.

What Is Fixed Fee Probate?

When a loved one dies, and you are an executor of their will, you may already know that you have to apply for probate. This simply involves filling out a form and sending off the required fee, so that you can be granted access to the deceased’s assets, such as their bank accounts and stocks and shares.
 
There are exceptions. You may not need to apply for probate if:
 
The deceased has less than £5000 in assets, after paying for funeral costs.
 
All the deceased’s assets are in joint names, with their next of kin.
 
What Happens Once You Are Granted Probate?
 
Once you are granted probate, you have many responsibilities as an executor of the will. But you don’t have to cope with it all yourself and that is where fixed fee probate comes in.
 
Dealing with a loved ones finances after they die, can be a traumatic and complicated process. If their estate is quite complicated and they have properties, or stocks and shares, it would be far easier to obtain legal assistance. The trouble is solicitors charge by the hour, and the eventual bill could be enormous if a lot of work is involved.
 
An excellent alternative is to use a probate services practitioner like IWC Probate Services. We offer a fixed free probate service, so that you know exactly what our fees and before we begin working on your behalf. This gives you piece of mind, knowing that the final fee will not exceed the amount we gave you upfront.
 
What Do Fixed Fee Probate Services Include?
 
Fixed fee probate services involve acting on your behalf to deal with all matters related to the deceased finances.
 
These services include:
 
Paying money owed by the deceased to others.
Chasing up debts owed to the deceased.
Dealing with financial institutions including banks and stock brokers.
Calculating and paying inheritance tax owed.
Delivering the assets to the beneficiaries, when everything else is complete.
 
These tasks can be overwhelming, at a time when you are still mourning the loss of someone close to you. It is understandable that you might want to attempt to do it all yourself, to save paying huge legal fees to a solicitor. But with fixed fee probate services, you don’t have to do it all yourself. And you will know the exact total costs before you commit to using a Probate practitioner, to deal with your loved one’s estate.

Interest–in-possession trusts and Capital Gains Tax

With many people now remarrying for the second or even third time, cases can arise whereby only one spouse owns the property in which they now live as a married couple.
 
In this instance, the owner will want to ensure that should they die, the remaining spouse will be able to continue living in the property, rent-free. One way of doing this is to set up an interest-in-possession trust.
 
This type of trust simply gives the surviving partner the right to use the property for the remainder of their lifetime, with other individuals (usually children), given absolute entitlement to the property on the death of the remaining partner.
 
The trust comes to an end when the final beneficiaries inherit the property. Capital Gains Trust rules state that there will be no CGT to pay in the event of the death of the life tenant, whilst the beneficiaries continue to own the property, which is another great reason to set up one of these trusts.
 
Of course, when the time comes to sell, CGT will become due if the property is not the main residence of the ultimate beneficiary. This is normally calculated by taking into account the amount received for the property (or sometimes its market value at the time of the last spouse’s death) against how much was spent to improve and/or sell it, arriving at a sum of money gained or lost. Any relevant tax reliefs are then applied, before being able to calculate the final figure due.

The Shocking Truth about Probate Fees

 The Shocking Truth about Probate FeesThe news is littered with appalling stories of vulnerable, recently bereaved families who are charged exorbitant probate fees by banks and solicitors. Here’s a collection of news snippets that make interesting reading; highlighting the importance to always use a fixed fee service from a reputable company.
 
An article from the Guardian titled “The £600m RIP-off” describes that £600 million of the £1.25bn a year probate market is made up of shameful over-charging by high street banks. 
 
Prompted by concerns that consumers did not understand the probate process the Office of Fair Trading approached 4 leading banks in 2010 and reported “For an average estate, consumers can pay between £3,000 and £9,000, failing to shop around for executor services could be costing UK consumers around £40 million a year.”
 
Consumer review publication Which? reported that some bank charges were around double the cost quoted by specialist practitioners in 2009. They obtained quotes from 4 different banks and found that on a £350,000 estate, the difference in fees was a shocking £8750.
 
Candidmoney .com cites a case involving a man that died leaving £1m in a savings account.  That bank wanted almost £50,000 in probate fees.  This is despite the fact it was a straight forward case of paying the inheritance tax and equally dividing the money between the grandchildren.
 
The Daily Mail owned website; ThisisMoney .co.uk, featured a case in 2010 where a company added almost £3000 in “extra charges” to the final bill of Mrs Stevenson from West Yorkshire.   
 
Another article by This is Money titled “Banks that prey on the bereaved” in June of the same year, described the experiences of Mr & Mrs Berryman. After their aunt passed away, the family discovered a high street bank had been named as executor in the will and wanted to charge probate fees of 4% of the estate value. This worked out at £25000. When they complained, the bank agreed to halve the fee immediately. Next, when presented with a quote from another firm for some £8000 less the £12500 quoted, they agreed to renounce their executorship.
 
43% of people in the UK opt to use professional executors. In August 2010 Panorama investigated 2 cases of ‘baiting,’ in a program titled “Wills-The Final Rip Off?” Baiting is the name given to companies that charge a very competitive price to write a will as a loss leader. They then write themselves in as professional executors and make exorbitant charges for probate services. 
 
In 2009, the BBC’s Rip-Off Britain highlighted another 2 cases where a bank and a solicitor tried to charge beneficiaries nearly 10 times the appropriate amount for probate services. In both cases they were appointed in the will as executors by the deceased and refused to renounce their positions when the requested to do so by the family.

I Want to Dispute Probate

There are many reasons why you might want to dispute probate on a loved one’s Estate. Perhaps there is a dispute as to whether a will actually exists, you feel that the contents of the will are suspicious and you doubt its validity or whether the deceased was of sound mind when they prepared it. More commonly, you may feel that the executors are not distributing the assets in the manner laid out in the will itself.
 
Most disputes arise when no will had in fact been prepared and the Estate is to be distributed according to English intestacy laws, which could mean that although you feel you would normally have benefited from a will, you will in actual fact, receive nothing under these laws.
 
Whatever the case for your dispute, remember that there is a strict time limit in which you are permitted to raise your concerns. 
 
To delay probate proceedings you must enter into a caveat with the Probate Registry. This means that the executor or administrator of the Estate is unable to apply for a Grant of Representation, effectively halting the process for up to six months. If your dispute lasts for longer, you can apply for another caveat, for another six months.
 
If no resolution can be reached, this may mean that you need to take your case to court. This is not advised if the value of the Estate is under £50,000 as the entire sum can be easily swallowed up by court fees.
 
To avoid reaching this stage, it is advisable to seek the advice of a probate professional as soon as possible.

Are You Worried About Probate Fees?

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.

Probate and outstanding tax

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.

Probate problems – beneficiaries must pay Inheritance Tax bill from own funds

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.

Probate cannot be granted until the Inheritance Tax bill has been paid, although unfortunately, the deceased person’s assets are frozen until probate has been granted. Which means in effect that the beneficiaries or Trustees must pay potentially thousands of pounds in Inheritance Tax before they can touch a penny of the Estate.
 
With the IHT tax threshold now standing at £325,000, millions of people face an anxious battle to find the necessary funds before probate can progress. Above this figure, the tax is levied at 40 percent of the total value of the Estate, payable six months after the end of the month in which the individual died although the proportion of tax that is due from the value of the property only (not cash assets) can be paid in ten yearly instalments. Any unpaid tax will of course accrue interest.
 
If you’re thinking of having your Will prepared, bear these facts in mind and consult with a professional Estate planner, who can help you minimise the amount of Inheritance Tax which will fall due in the event of your death.

Responsibilities When You Are Granted Letters of Administration

When a loved one dies intestate, you will need to apply for letters of administration to gain access to the deceased’s bank accounts and other assets. The application is straightforward enough. However, the responsibilities that come with dealing with a loved ones estate may not be so straightforward, especially when you are still grieving. Only you can decide whether you would be able to cope with doing it all yourself.
 
Once you are granted letters of administration, you will need to find all the assets belonging to the estate. You will also need to pay off any debts owed by the deceased and discover whether they have any debts owing to them. You will then need to chase those debts up.
 
Next you will need to find out who is entitled to the deceased’s assets, by checking the rules of intestacy. This alone can be difficult because even though the rules of intestacy are set out by law, some family members may feel that they have not been sufficiently provided for. They may have the right to appeal and this can cause stress and conflict, if you have to deal with it all yourself.
 
Dealing with a relative’s affairs when they have died intestate is far more complicated than if they have left a will. It really is a huge burden, and in some cases it can drag on for years. Then when you have finally dealt with everything, you will need to calculate inheritance tax owing, and deal with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, before you distribute the deceased’s assets.
 
All this can be far too much for most people to cope with and if you are not confident that you can cope with it, it would be wise to seek legal assistance, before you apply for letters of administration. But if you are worried about the expense of having a solicitor deal with the estate, it may be worth seeking advice and assistance from a probate specialist such as IWC; who offer fixed fee probate services. That way, you will know the exact fees upfront and you won’t have to worry about running up massive hourly charges.
 
If you are still not sure whether you want to deal with your loved ones estate, it is worth finding out how complicated your case might be. IWC Probate Specialists will be happy to give you free advice. You will then be able to decide whether you want to apply for letters of administration yourself, and handle your loved ones financial affairs.  Call now on 0800 612 6105.

What are the probate laws for dying intestate?

Dying intestate means without having made a valid will.  Under these circumstances the Estate will then be divided up and distributed according to the English laws of probate.  This is known as “intestacy”.

It is never advisable to avoid preparing a will until you retire, or indeed not at all, as the Probate Office may then divide up your Estate in a way in which you would not have approved.  For instance, you may have had a disagreement with a brother or sister and not spoken for years.  If you have remarried, your children may receive nothing, or in the worst case scenario, if no blood relatives exist, your entire life savings and property may become the property of the Crown.

So where would your assets and savings go should you die right now, without having prepared a will?

If either of your parents is alive, they will inherit your Estate.  Should they both be deceased, then your full brothers and sisters or half brothers and sisters will be the next in line for inheritance.  If you were an only child, your grandparents if they are alive would be beneficiaries if you had no surviving parents and if this was not the case then the line would pass down to full uncles and aunts, half uncles and aunts until finally, the Probate Office would concede that no blood relatives were in existence, and the proceeds of your Estate would pass to the Crown.

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