Probate & Estate Administration

If you are an Executor of a will or a Personal Representative if there is no will you can make a personal application to the probate registry yourself, but is it worth the trouble as you may carry a personal liability for any losses if you get it wrong?

We understand that losing a loved one is often a difficult and emotional time and the task of administering a person’s estate can be a great worry, a complicated process and time consuming. Our probate solicitors are here to help you  to take the burden off your shoulders and make the process as straightforward as we can.

Executors and Personal Representatives are personally liable for any acts or omissions made by them in the course of the administration of an estate. 

In most cases, it is worth engaging a probate solicitor in the estate administration as they will be able to advise you if a will is valid or not, who is able to act in the administration if there is no will, help locate a will if it is missing or lost and advise you on any legal issues that may be involved so they can be dealt with quickly.

An Executor or Personal Representative is responsible for the following:

  • Searching for the last will and testament
  • Ascertaining the assets and liabilities of the estate
  • Preparing a probate application and an Inheritance Tax Return , if required
  • Obtaining the Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration, if there is no Will
  • Collecting in the deceased’s assets
  • Paying any debts and liabilities
  • Paying the legacies as set out in the Will 
  • Establishing any will trusts and vesting assets in the trusts set up under the deceased’s Will
  • Obtaining IHT clearance
  • Distribution the rest of the estate, called the residue.

That may all seem straightforward but there may be complicating factors to deal with during the administration, such as:

  • It is possible that there may be a challenge to the will for a variety of reasons, for example the will was not validly executed, it was made under duress or undue influence or the deceased lacked the necessary testamentary capacity when their will was executed. 
  • It is important to establish the deceased’s legal domicile at the outset as that country’s succession laws will apply to the deceased’s estate.
  • Where there is no will it is essential to identify who is entitled to benefit under a deceased’s estate under the intestacy laws and who is entitled to deal with the deceased’s affairs and take out Letters of Administration, usually a souse or next of kin. The rules are complex so it is advisable to obtain legal advice before acting in case you intermeddle in the estate, for which you may become liable. For example a cohabitee will not benefit from a deceased’s estate if there is no will.
  •  If the deceased owned foreign assets (outside the jurisdiction of England and Wales), they may have left a will in that country and different laws may apply to the distribution of those assets. If so, it may be necessary for a foreign Grant of Representation to be resealed by the Probate Registry in this country.
  •  Calculating any Inheritance Tax due on a deceased’s estate can be complicated and professional advice should be taken as financial penalties can be imposed for late submission, or non-disclosure of all the deceased’s assets, which may make you liable for any unpaid inheritance tax.
  • Professional advice is likely to be required if the deceased owned business assets and how to transfer those to the beneficiaries and claim any business relief from inheritance tax.
  • If the deceased’s created will trusts, trustees may need appointing and assets transferred into that trust. There will  be ongoing administration of the trusts, and annual tax returns and trust accounts may need preparing during the lifetime of the trust.
  • Gifts to minor beneficiaries may have to be held in trust for them until they attain their majority (18 years) before a Personal Representative can pay the legacy to them, unless the will provides a full discharge on receipt from that child’s parents or legal guardian.
  • Personal Representatives can be held personally liable if they distribute an estate prior to paying all the estate liabilities and which may only come to light after the administration has been completed or if a missing beneficiary turns up unexpectedly. Personal Representatives remain liable even after an estate has been distributed and may need advice on how best to protect themselves from that possibility
  • If a will does not male reasonable financial provision for someone the deceased ought to have, a spouse, former spouse who received spousal maintenance which suddenly stops or a child or someone else maintained by the deceased at the time of death, a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 may be made within 6 months of a grant of representation being made which can be costly and time-consuming to defend and may deplete the size of the estate if successful. 
  • Sometimes, beneficiaries may wish to vary their entitlement under the Will if, for example they have no need for the gift and would prefer that it goes to their children. A variation of the terms of a will can be made within 2 years of the death.

The potential for getting things wrong could be costly for you personally even if you are not a beneficiary of the estate, which is why we advise that executors and Personal representatives instruct solicitors to act for them in the administration of an estate, whatever size of estate it is.

Our probate solicitors are able to advise and assist Executors and Personal Representatives in the administration of a deceased’s estate or to provide advice regarding particular aspects of estate administration. Please contact a member of our probate team for initial advice

How Long Will it take

On average, straight forward estates are dealt with within 12 months. Typically, we should be in a position to apply for a grant within 12 weeks of instructions being received from you. Receiving the grant of probate can take a further 8 to 12 weeks. We will then collect in the assets, pay any debts and legacies which can take between 6 to 10 weeks and once all assets are in all payments made, we will ask HMRC for a Clearance Certificate confirming that no further IHT is payable. We can then proceed to prepare full estate accounts prior to distribution of the estate in accordance with the will or the intestacy rules to the next of kin.

Probate and Estate Administration Fees

Our fees for probate work depends on a number of factors, which we will discuss with you initially:

  • Our charges are based on the time it takes to complete the administration. Our fee earners’ hourly rates (which includes an uplift on our expense rate) are set out below
  • If the estate is of high value or complexity we may charge based on our hourly rate, plus a value element, which we will discuss with your at the outset.
  • If the work is predictable and not complex, we may agree a fixed fee for the work,
  • All our fees are subject to payment of VAT at 20%

Once we have been able to make an assessment of the estate papers and what is involved in the estate we will discuss with you our charges for the administration of the estate.

Charging Probate Work

Our fees are calculated mainly based on the amount of time spent on the administration, but that’s not all. The charges can also reflect the following as well:

  • the complexity and any anticipated difficulties during the administration, such as, an intestacy where there is no will and identifying the right beneficiaries, there are one or more properties or foreign assets, IHT is payable, substantial lifetime gifts have been made, the will creates a trust, the terms of the will need varying, with everyone’s agreement
  • the skill, specialised knowledge and responsibility involved
  • the amount and importance of the documents prepared or considered
  • the amount or value of any money or property involved
  • whether any land involved is registered land or unregistered
  • the importance of the matter to you

Time taken and value of the estate are two of the main factors which determine the level of our charges and where we have been appointed as executor of the estate in a will the value element of our charge will be more due to the added personal responsibility undertaken.

A typical estate administration involving a property, bank account savings and some investments, but no IHT to pay and straightforward distribution to the beneficiaries will cost on average between £2,500 and £4,500 plus VAT and any disbursements we pay. The more straightforward the will and the fewer the assets the less our fee will be and, conversely the more complex the estate is, the greater the assets are the more our fees will be.

If the estate is high in value, involves more than one property or more complex financial affairs, there is IHT to pay and a full IHT has to be prepared, our charges will be in the range £5,000 plus VAT to £8,500 plus VAT and will take between 20 and 30 hours work. We will give you a more accurate estimate once that information becomes available.

Some estates can take longer to complete where there is greater complexity and are more involved and our charges will reflect that.

Our Probate Department

Nick Bingham is the principal of the firm and qualified as a solicitor in 1985 and has overall supervision of the department. He also acts as an executor and trustee on many estates.

Lyn Tomlins has been Probate Manager since joining the firm from Barclays Bank where she gained 20 years experience in the bank’s probate section and has responsibility for the day to day running of the probate files under supervision.

Gloria Asaaga graduated from Oxford Brookes University with a LLB in 2011, completed her Legal Practice course in 2013 and her LLM at Reading University in 2017. Following a career break she worked as a paralegal in a large regional law firm before joining us in August 2019 to continue her legal career and after completing her training contract with us in2023 Gloria is now a solicitor. 

Contact Us

Contact us for legal advice in Oxford

Our Hourly Charging Rates

Nick Bingham’s hourly rate as Principal and supervisor is currently £295 per hou

Lyn Tomlins’ hourly rate as probate manager is £200 per hour

Gloria Asaaga’s fees as a solicitor is £225 per hour

Hourly Charging rates are reviewed annually


VAT is charged on all our fees at the prevailing rate, currently 20%


In addition to the fees we charge, there will be disbursements we pay to third parties, such as probate court fees. We pay all the disbursements required, which include the following:

  • If the value of the estate is over £5,000, the application fee is £273. There’s no fee if the estate is £5,000 or less
  • £0.50 for each office copy of the grant
  • Bankruptcy only searches with Land Charges Department at £1 per beneficiary
  • £101.52 inclusive of VAT statutory advertisement in the London Gazette – this protects the personal representatives against unexpected claims or unknown creditors; and
  • £250 (approx.) inclusive of VAT for a statutory advertisement in a local newspaper.