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  1. Blog
  2. How much does probate cost?
House selling tips
26 October 2023

How much does probate cost?

Kimberley Taylor
Writer & Researcher

Table of contents

  1. 1. What is probate?
  2. 2. How to apply for grant of probate
  3. 3. How long does the application take?
  4. 4. How much is a probate application fee?
  5. 5. The different stages of probate application costs
  6. 6. Service cost
  7. 7. Disbursement fees and other costs
  8. 8. Your legal fees broken down
  9. 9. Summary: A more complex estate = more fees to pay

Applying for grant of probate can sometimes sound like a difficult process. There's a lot to think about, from the validity of the will, how many beneficiaries were included, the value of the estate, and if the deceased person had unknown creditors or foreign property.

One of the biggest factors is how much grant of probate will cost. It's not just the application fees, it's legal fees, conveyancing fees, the different hourly rates of different probate professionals, probate court fees, additional costs, the list goes on. There are A LOT of different costs related to the probate process. And it can seem pretty overwhelming.

In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know about the grant of probate process, how much it costs, and how you can apply.

What is probate?

Probate refers to the legal right to deal with someone's estate after they die. A person's estate can mean anything they own, including their property, money and other assets. You shouldn't make any financial plans, including putting a property on the market, until you've got grant of probate.

For more tips on selling a house in probate, check out one of our previous blogs.

The legally appointed executors of the deceased person's will (or the administrator if there isn't a will) is responsible for the estate administration, paying debts, as well as any other legal requirements.

Often, if the estate value is small, or there are only a small number of assets and beneficiaries, you won't need to apply for probate. Often, grant of probate is required if:

  • The will is complex or includes complex arrangements.
  • It is a complicated estate, for example assets held in trust or it contains foreign assets.
  • The estate is bankrupt or insolvent.
  • There are doubts about the validity of the will.
  • Some dependents have been deliberately excluded from the will and want to make a claim on the estate.
  • There isn't a valid will.
  • The estate value is over the inheritance tax threshold (£325,000), and there may be tax due to be paid.
  • The estate includes a property that has been left to children or grandchildren, so a claim for the residence nil rate band needs to be made.
  • If disputes arise about how the assets are divided.
  • The estate includes more than one property.
  • The estate is still earning regular income, or there are complicated taxes due.
  • The estate consists of a large number of shareholdings or other intangible assets.
  • The deceased owner lived outside of the UK.

You can read more about how to leave your house to someone in a will here.

How to apply for grant of probate

Before you apply to get grant of probate, you need to check if probate is needed, if you're eligible to apply, and whether or not there's Inheritance Tax to pay.

Check if probate is needed

To check if probate is needed, you'll need to contact any financial organisations the deceased person used, like their bank or mortgage provider. They'll be able to tell you if you need probate to get access to their assets.

You might not need to go through the probate process if the deceased person's assets were only made up of savings, if they owned shares or money with others, or if they owned land or property as joint tenants with other people. In the latter two cases, all assets automatically pass to the surviving owners.

Check if you're eligible to apply

Not everyone can apply for probate. It depends on whether or not there's a will involved. If there is a will, only the executors (people named in the will to manage the deceased's estate) can apply for probate. Executors may also use a solicitor or appoint another person licensed to provide probate services if they don't want to apply for probate themselves. If there isn't a will, then the closest living relative can apply.

Work out the Inheritance Tax

Before you can apply for grant of probate, you are legally required to find out if you need to pay Inheritance Tax. To do this, you need to estimate the net and gross value of the deceased person's estate. You'll need this regardless of whether you need to pay tax or not. You can use the government's online Inheritance Tax checker to estimate the estate's value.

If there is inheritance tax to pay, you'll usually have to pay at least some of it before being granted probate. If there is property in the estate, the tax can be paid in instalments over the course of ten years, or until the property is sold.

Here’s how to avoid inheritance on a property.

Once you've done this, you'll be able to apply for probate either online or via post.

Apply for probate online

In England and Wales, as an executor you can apply for probate online, so long as you have the original will, the original death certificate, and have reported the estate's value for inheritance tax to HMRC. Once you've submitted the online application, you must send the original will via post.

Apply for probate by post

If you're applying for probate by post, you need to use:

  • Form PA1P if the deceased had a will.
  • Form PA1A if the deceased didn't leave a will.

You'll need to send either of these forms alone with the original will and death certificate.

How long does the application take?

If there's no inheritance tax payable, the probate and estate administration will usually take three to six months to complete. However, where inheritance tax is payable, probate and estate administration can take anywhere between six months to a year. In some cases, the process could take even longer if the estate is really complex.

How much is a probate application fee?

Depending on the value of the estate, you may have to pay a probate application fee. If the estate's value is over £5000, you need to pay £273 in probate application fees. If the estate is £5000 or less, you don't need to pay any fees.

You can also order extra copies of the probate document at £1.50 a piece, which is useful if you need to send them to different organisations at once.

It costs £20 to make a second probate application if one has already been granted. For example, you might want to apply a second time if you need to apply as an executor after holding 'power reserved' on the first application. You'll have to pay the £20 even if the estate's value is less than £5000.

Getting help with probate application fees

If you're on a low income or you're on certain benefits, you may be able to get financial support for your probate and other court fees. You can either apply for support online or fill in a form EX160 before applying for probate.

Applying for help online

If you apply for probate online, you'll always have to pay the full probate fee as part of the application. But if you apply for help, you'll get a refund later. You can apply for support by:

  • Via email to the 'help with fees' team with the subject line 'HWF/[full name of person who died]/[date of death]/probate application’ if you're applying by post or online.
  • With all the relevant documents required (like the will) if you're applying online.

Make sure you have your reference number.

Applying for help using form EX160

Once you've filled in the EX160 form, send it either:

  • By post to the national probate registry, including a note explaining why you're applying for probate.
  • Email to the 'help with fees' team.

The different stages of probate application costs

Stage One: Pre-Grant and Up to Grant

This refers to fees for the work involved when ascertaining the extent of the estate, as well as completing the relevant HMRC forms and applying to the HMRC with or without inheritance tax to pay. It also covers the work involved to make an application to the probate registry.

Stage Two: Post Grant

This covers the cost of work post-grant (which refers to the application for grant of probate and estate administration). This means dealing with the transfer or liquidation of assets, dealing with corrective HMRC accounts, as well as drafting and finalising estate accounts. It also covers distributing assets to any beneficiaries.

Service cost

While some professionals work for a fixed fee, an experienced probate solicitor will often charge an hourly rate, depending on the time spent for the solicitors work on the application.

Here is an example of solicitor fees depending on the specific circumstances of your case:

ServiceInheritance TaxEstateCost
Application for Grant of Probate OnlyNone payableOne property where there are up to five accounts or sharesFor 10 - 15 hours: £2,750 - £4,125 plus VAT
Application for Grant of Probate OnlyPayableOne property where there are up to five accounts or sharesFor 20 - 35 hours: £5,500 - £9,625 plus VAT
Application for Grant of Probate and Administration of EstateNone payableThis is for one property, with up to five accounts and three beneficiaries.For 15 - 30 hours: £4,125 - £8,250 plus VAT
Application for Grant of Probate and Administration of EstatePayableThis is when there is no valid will, or for one property, with up to five accounts/shares and for up to three beneficiaries.For 30 - 40 hours: £8,259 - £11,000 plus VAT

The exact cost of your probate fees will range significantly depending on the individual circumstances. For example, if there's only one beneficiary and no property, the probate fees will be lower. But if there are multiple beneficiaries, a property or multiple bank accounts, the fees will be much higher.

Disbursement fees and other costs

Disbursement fees refer to costs related to the estate that are payable to third parties like court fees. An experienced probate solicitor will often handle the payment of disbursements on your behalf to ensure everything is done correctly and to ensure a smoother process.

These costs will include:

  • £273 for the application fee.
  • £1.50 per copy of the grant
  • £10 plus VAT for ID checks
  • £3.90 per beneficiary for bankruptcy search
  • £2.90 for Land Registry property title search
  • £95 for Certainty National Will Register search
  • £155-£185 plus VAT for asset search costs
  • £114 plus VAT for a will search fee.
  • £160 plus VAT for statutory notices advertising.

There are other potential additional costs throughout the process that you may be charged for, especially in circumstances where there isn't a will or the estate includes any share holdings. The additional costs in this case can vary significantly depending on the estate and the estate administration.

There may also be additional costs when dealing with the sale or transfer of a property in the estate, and it's not included in the original probate fees.

You might be wondering where the money for your legal fees is going. Often, if your solicitor is offering a full package for distributing the estate, these fees may cover:

  • Collecting initial information about the estate and deceased person's assets.
  • Getting valuations of the assets and liabilities (including tax valuations).
  • Arranging the payment of funeral expenses.
  • Preparing a legal statement for the court.
  • Preparing HMRC returns or a full account for inheritance tax.
  • Arranging payment for inheritance tax.
  • Applying to the Probate Court for the grant of probate and estate administration.
  • Preparing forms to close accounts and sell or transfer assets.
  • Settling tax liabilities.
  • Placing statutory notices in the London Gazette or local newspaper to protect people against fraudulent claims.
  • Completing any income tax affairs to the date of death.

Summary: A more complex estate = more fees to pay

Ultimately, probate fees will depend on the complexity of your case, whether or not you have inheritance tax to pay, and how involved you want your probate solicitor to be in the process. It's important to make sure you've done everything right to avoid any issues or disputes further down the line, which is why it's often recommended you seek professional advice before making any final decisions.

If you've been given grant of probate and you want to sell the property you've inherited, take a look at our Estate Agent Comparison Tool to find the right agent to best meet your needs.

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