Wills and Probate

As many as six out of ten adults in the UK do not have a will. There are real advantages to having a will drawn up professionally. Without a will, your assets may not benefit the people you wish to provide for in the event of your death. In particular, clients need to consider whether they wish those other than blood relatives to benefit from their estate, such as a partner or co-habitee. It is often necessary to set up a trust or to provide for the appointment of guardians for children.  A professionally prepared will gives peace of mind with the knowledge that your wishes will be followed.

At MacLachlan we can prepare a will for you and give advice on the best ways to reduce any Inheritance Tax payable on your estate. With the dramatic increases in property values over the past few years many more estates have become subject to the payment of Inheritance Tax and our lawyers will be able to suggest ways in which this burden on those benefiting from your estate may be reduced.

Probate & Estate Administration

We deal with all aspects of estate administration and act for executors and personal representatives as well as acting in those capacities ourselves as professional executors and trustees.

Following a death we can give advice and assistance at this difficult time and ensure that the correct procedures are followed to prevent further concerns for those acting as executors or representatives.

For more information please click on the links below

If you have a child under the age of 18 years it is important to appoint a guardian in case you should die unexpectedly. If the child has a surviving parent they will have automatic responsibility for the child but if both parents should die together or the surviving parent is unable or unwilling to care for the child then the named Guardian will take on the day-to-day care of the child and make all decisions in respect of their upbringing, education, health and welfare.

You may wish to name just one Guardian but it is best to name two or more in case any of them are unable to undertake the role when the time comes. Couples can be named to perform the role together. If you do not appoint a Guardian in your Will then the court will make the appointment, usually on the advice of social services, and the people chosen may not be those that you would have chosen yourself.

To discuss the appointment of Guardians further please contact Catherine Murton on 01935 817736 or Hannah Keenan on 01258 440530.

The modern family can often pose complex issues, particularly in how to provide for both a new spouse and children from a previous relationship.

The population is living longer and, as a result, long term care is often required in later life. Care home fees can severely deplete funds that have been built up over a lifetime.

A Life Interest Trust in favour of your spouse can effectively ‘ring fence’ the assets put into the Trust. This is particularly effective for your home as it would enable your spouse to live in the property for the rest of their life rent free (or an alternative property if they need to downsize or move to something more suitable in old age) and then, on their death, the property can pass to your children.

Property held in Trust is not taken into account in the assessment of the contribution to be made towards nursing home fees under the current legislation.

If you are interested in learning a little more about Life Interest Trusts please telephone 01935 817736.

Simple single Wills can be prepared from as little as £250 plus VAT.  A pair of simple mirror Wills start from £350 plus VAT.

The cost of preparing your Will is a fixed fee, which will be agreed once your full requirements are known.  The cost will include taking your instructions, preparing a draft Will for your approval, giving full written guidance on the content of your Will and ensuring that your Will is properly executed.  MacLachlan will also store your Will free of charge and write to you once every five years to check that you are still happy with the content of your Will.

The following case studies will help you understand what our costs may be for your particular requirements:

Denise, single with no living relatives but many friends

  • She wants make detailed funeral arrangements to assist her Executors
  • She wants to leave six cash legacies to her closest friends
  • She wants the remainder of her estate to pass to her favourite charity

A single Will for Denise £250 plus VAT


Paul and Nicola, married with two young children

  • They want to leave everything to the survivor of them when the first dies
  • They want to appoint Guardians for their children
  • They want to leave Nicola’s jewellery to their daughter and Paul’s medal collection to their son
  • On second death they want everything to be divided equally between their children when they reach the age of 21 years

A pair of Wills for Paul and Nicola £350 plus VAT

Brian and Iris, married for 6 years, Brian has two children by his first marriage

  • They own their own home with a small mortgage
  • Brian wants to ensure that if he dies first Iris will be able to stay in their home but he also wants his share of their house to pass to his children

A pair of Wills for Brian and Iris with a Life Interest Trust to the survivor to allow the surviving spouse to remain in the property rent free for life and then, on second death Brian’s half of the property is divided equally between his children from £500 plus VAT

Elizabeth, widowed and living with her adult son who has learning difficulties

  • She wishes to leave her entire estate to her only child but wants it to be looked after for him

A Will including a Disabled Trust appointing professional Trustees to administer the Trust £500 plus VAT

A Will is a legal document that allows you to legally state what should happen to your assets when you are no longer here. It also allows you to ensure that your loved ones are properly taken care of. If you have children it can state who you wish to care for them if you die unexpectedly and can protect assets for future generations.

If you die without a Will the Rules of Intestacy will decide who receives your property and possessions. Unfortunately, as these rules were created in 1925, they do not fully reflect modern family arrangements and currently there is no provision for unmarried partners, friends or charities.

Often people are tempted to write a Will themselves or to use an unqualified Will writer or web based template. However, a badly worded Will can create even more problems than not having one at all. A small mistake can be very costly for your family in the long run, and could even be deemed invalid.

Likewise, having an out of date Will can have unexpected complications . You may have made a Will when you bought a house or when your children were young. However, life moves on quickly and your current Will may no longer reflect your wishes. For example, you may now have grandchildren or someone mentioned in your Will may have passed away. Some life events such as marriage or divorce will make all or part of your Will invalid.

At MacLachlan we can work with you to identify your current requirements and to write a Will that will give you peace of mind knowing that your assets and loved ones are property protected.

Please call 01747 822103 if you would like to make an appointment to discuss your Will.

A professionally drafted Will must be given a lot of careful thought. It is extremely important to decide who should look after your estate after you’ve gone so that you can be sure that your wishes are carried out in full.

The Executors appointed in your Will are the people that will administer your estate. They can be held personally responsible for any loss resulting from mistakes that they make, even when these were made in good faith. It is therefore important that the people that you choose are trustworthy, able to handle financial affairs, familiar with the responsibility of the role, and able to dedicate sufficient time (often between 6 and 9 months and can be longer) to administer the estate.

You must choose a minimum of one Executor in your Will but it is advisable to name at least two in case one is unable or unwilling to act when the time comes. Your Executors must be over the age of 18 and not bankrupt.

The alternative to appointing family members or friends in this role is to appoint professional Executors. MacLachlan do not charge to undertake the role of Executor and the charges for administering your estate will be calculated on the time that it takes to undertake the work, not on a percentage of the value of your overall estate (as is the case with some professional Executors such as banks).

To find out more about the role of the Executor please contact us on 01747 822103.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal administration process that takes place following someone’s death. It involves collecting in the deceased’s assets, paying outstanding liabilities, including any inheritance tax, and distributing the estate to the entitled beneficiaries.

When is Probate required?

You will be required to get probate if the deceased held a property in their sole name or as tenants in common with someone else, where there are assets over £5,000 (although some banks will release higher balances without probate), where the deceased benefitted from a Trust during their lifetime, where the deceased held stocks and shares or for some insurance policies. Probate is not required where all of the deceased assets were held in joint names with a spouse or civil partner, although some administration will be necessary to transfer these assets into the survivor’s name.

What is an Executor?

An Executor is appointed under the deceased’s Will. An Executor is the person responsible for collecting in the assets of the estate, paying liabilities and distributing to the entitled beneficiaries. There may be more than one Executor and they may be professional executors such as solicitors.  Executors have the legal right to deal with the assets of the deceased including the selling of property and stocks and shares and are duty bound to follow the terms of the Will.

What happens if the deceased did not leave a Will?

Where there is no Will the deceased is said to have died intestate. In this case there will be no Executor but the next of kin may apply for Letters of Administration. The estate will be distributed according the Rules of Intestacy, which were introduced in 1925. Unfortunately these do not benefit unmarried partners, stepchildren, friends or charities and may not provide for your immediate family in the way you would have chosen.  See our news page “Do I really need a Will” for more information on the intestacy rules.

When is Inheritance Tax payable?

If the value of the deceased’s estate is in excess of £325,000 at the date of death and it has not been left entirely to a spouse/civil partner or a charity there might be some Inheritance Tax (IHT) to pay. Spouses, civil partners and charities are all exempt beneficiaries for IHT. For estates which have been left to any other beneficiaries the amount of IHT payable might be reduced by the availability of a “transferrable nil rate band” from a spouse/civil partner who died before the deceased or by taking advantage of the “residence nil rate band” and/or reliefs for business and agricultural property. When calculating a possible IHT liability consideration must also be given to any gifts the deceased made during their lifetime. IHT is a complex area of tax law and each estate is different. If you are concerned about the impact of IHT on your estate or you have been appointed as an executor for someone who has died, and you believe there might be an IHT liability in the estate please contact us to see if we can assist you.

How much does it cost to obtain Probate or Letters of Administration?

MacLachlan Solicitors charges are based on the hourly rate of the solicitor dealing with the matter, which is between £210 plus VAT and £240 plus VAT.  The length of time it takes to administer an estate varies and depends on the amount of work required – not the amount their estate is worth.  In certain instances a fixed fee may be agreed at the outset.

The administration of an average estate where there is a property, a number of banks accounts and perhaps insurance policies or stocks and shares is around £4200 plus VAT.  MacLachlan provide an estimate of the likely costs at the outset of the administration. We do not charge a percentage of the overall value of the deceased’s estate, as is common practice. There will also be some small disbursements, including the probate application fee of £155 that must be paid.

In a simple estate, with no property, a few bank accounts, and perhaps a small widow’s or private pension, we would be able to offer a fixed fee to obtain the Grant of Probate of £1500 plus VAT.  This would not increase even if those accounts had large sums of money within them.

A more complex estate, for instance with a variety of shareholdings that need to be dealt with, properties and trusts (whether complicated trusts created in the Will, or if the deceased was a beneficiary of a trust during their lifetime) would cost more to administer and such an estate is likely to cost in the region of £6,500 plus VAT to administer.

If someone dies intestate there are additional requirements which may result in the estate being more complex to administer.  If there is a reasonably small family to consider the cost of administration would usually only cost marginally more than an estate where there was a Will.

How long does it take?

When obtaining a Grant of Probate or Administration only, we aim to send the paperwork to the Probate Registry within 7 working days of receiving the completed paperwork and supporting information from the Personal Representatives. Timescales for progressing the cases at the Probate Registry have varied widely in the past 2 to 3 years but on average may take in the region of 10 to 16 weeks.  On more complex estates or where Inheritance Tax is applicable, HMRC are taking approximately 2 months to deal with such applications.

For the administration of an uncontested estate, the average timescale would be in the region of 12 months. Some more complex estates can take between 24 and 36 months to be concluded as there are many agencies involved, working to their own varied timescales. For our part we aim to deal with all matters as efficiently as possible to assist the executors and representatives.

The above prices are an indication only and every matter needs to be considered on the facts, the specialist solicitors in our Private Client department would be happy to discuss the requirements of an estate to tailor a quote to suit the needs and complexity of that matter.

If you are a legal representative of an estate and need guidance please contact us on 01935 817736 for a free no obligation discussion about your requirements and to obtain a quote.

We firmly believe that in order to give you the best possible value for money and the most accurate information as to the likely costs, it is best to discuss with you in person your individual requirements. All of us are different and one-size does not necessarily fit all.

Our professional regulations require us to publish fees for the administration of a “typical” estate and to assist as a guide we provide the following information, however a conversation with us on a no-obligation basis is likely to provide a clearer and more accurate idea of the likely costs. 

We would expect the administration of a typical estate to take between 10 and 20 hours (this is subject to the individual estate in question and any complications which may arise) with work charged at £195 + VAT per hour. Total costs would therefore be estimated at £1950 and £3900 plus VAT of between £390 and £780, plus disbursements. The usual disbursements are Probate Registry fees in the region of £155, but other additional payments could arise depending on the work we are asked to do.  This does not include any conveyancing fees. 

The overall cost will therefore always be dependent on the work that is necessary and the time this takes, if there is one beneficiary and no property to sell, costs will be at or below the lower end of the estimate. If there are multiple beneficiaries, a property, an interest in a business, share-holdings  and multiple bank accounts, costs will be at, or above the higher end of the estimate.

We will handle the full administration of the estate for you, the executor or administrator. This estimate is for estates where:

  • There is a valid Will that is clearly drafted and deals fully with the assets held by the deceased. This does not apply in circumstances where there may, for example, be a discretionary trust incorporated in the Will
  • There is no more than one property
  • There are no more than 3 banks or building societies holding accounts for the deceased
  • There are no other intangible assets of financial value
  • There are no more than 3-4 beneficiaries and no more than 3-4 specific gifts in the Will
  • There are no disputes between beneficiaries on division of assets. If disputes arise this is likely to lead to a substantial increase in costs
  • There is no inheritance tax payable and the executors do not need to submit a full account to HMRC
  • There are no claims made against the estate

In some circumstances we may be able to agree to acting for you, the executor or administrator of the estate on a “grant only” basis. This means that we will obtain the grant of probate for you using the financial information and information as to the value of the deceased’s assets as supplied by you however we do not deal with the further administration or distribution of the estate, this is dealt with by you once we have obtained the grant of probate. The costs for this would usually be a fixed fee of £1250 plus VAT of £250.  There would be a probate registry fee in the region of £155. This is usually only suitable for smaller, non-complex estates. 

Dealing with the administration of an estate can be a daunting process, and a number of factors will impact on what you need to do.

Following a death we can give advice and assistance at this difficult time and ensure that the correct procedures are followed to prevent further concerns for those acting as executors or representatives.

It is important in any estate to ensure that everything is done correctly, whether that be making sure everyone receives what they are supposed to under a Will or rules of intestacy (if someone dies without a Will), administering trusts created or paying tax that is due.

If it is a taxable estate, it is the duty of the legal representatives to report details of the estate to Revenue and pay any Inheritance Tax due within a set timeframe.  If this is not done, even if by innocent mistake or misunderstanding, interest will become due on any unpaid Inheritance Tax and penalties may be applied.  Further accounts may also be required if the estate increases in value and tax may be reclaimed if they fall in value.

If the person died without a Will, their wishes do not determine how things should be dealt with, who has to deal with them, or who gets their assets, but it is determined by the intestacy rules, which must be followed by administrators appointed under those rules.

Trusts may also arise which can be misinterpreted resulting in assets being given away when they should be held.  Trusts have to be dealt with correctly from the first day until the last.

We deal with all aspects of estate administration, providing a full administration service or simply obtaining of the Grant, and act for executors and personal representatives as well as acting in those capacities ourselves as professional executors and trustees.

Using professionals to assist in the administration of an estate can speed up the process, as well as reduce the potential for mistake, but it also ensures consideration of other factors, such as any reliefs/exemptions that may be applied to reduce the Inheritance Tax bill, or the option of implementing a Deed of Variation to effectively re-write all or part of the Will to adjust things as may be more appropriate in all the circumstances.

There is a lot of publicity about fees and how they operate when using a solicitor.  At MacLachlan we do not charge a value element, but charge only for the work we do.  We give a full and detailed explanation of what will be required and an estimate of our fees from the outset.  We keep our clients informed of progress and involve them in the process.  We are also able to offer fixed fee to obtain Grant in certain instances.

For clients that are not local to any of our four offices in Sherborne, Gillingham and Shaftesbury, we are pleased to offer face-to-face consultations via Skype.

If you are a legal representative of an estate and need guidance please contact us on 01935 817736 for a free no obligation discussion about your requirements and to obtain a quote

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