Historically when a family member passed away the relatives approached either a firm of solicitors or a bank to obtain probate, administer the estate and distribute assets to beneficiaries. This all changed in 2016 when certain accountancy practices, that were able to prove they had the necessary skills and expertise and which were regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, were given permission to do this.

Vista Partners was one of the first accountancy practices to be granted this permission.

Overview

Probate work requires a broad range of skills:

  • The tax affairs of the deceased will need to be agreed with HMRC both up to the date of death, and for the period over which the estate is being administered. Inheritance tax returns will require completion, reliefs claimed and any tax calculated.
  • An application will be made for Grant of Probate which involves listing all of the deceased’s assets and liabilities, often valuing shares and investments;
  • Arranging for assets to be sold, all income due to the deceased to be received and for debts and liabilities to be paid;
  • Identifying where potential tax savings can be made through a Deed of Variation;
  • Calculating what beneficiaries are entitled to and ensuring those distributions are made;
  • Accounting for all of the sums paid into the estate, the payment of tax, expenses and liabilities, legacies paid and distributions to residuary beneficiaries.

As accountants, we are well suited to carrying out work of this nature. We are happy to take on all of the work needed or just a part of it. It is completely up to you. We will tailor our service to your requirements.

We offer a free initial consultation to discuss the process of obtaining probate and to gain a full understanding of how we can help.

Timescales

These vary depending on the size of the estate. It will take longer where land and property or private company shares are involved as professional valuations are needed. Nevertheless, as a rule of thumb, simple cases can be resolved within 2 to 3 months; complex cases will take significantly longer.

An important factor concerns HMRC. In recent years we have noticed a much higher number of tax enquiries into estates. Whilst we have a team of experts on hand to help, a tax enquiry can slow the administration of an estate.

Transparent Pricing

Every estate is different and because of this we estimate fees in advance based on two key factors. Firstly, we gauge the complexity of the estate and select a team that has the experience and expertise needed to undertake the work. Secondly, we estimate how long it will take.

Please note that we never base our charges on a percentage of the value of an estate.

None of us like surprises when it comes to fees. We will agree our charges with you before we start work. If something unexpected happens (such as a tax enquiry) we will let you know and agree the basis of further fees before doing the work.

In order to give you a rough idea of our likely fees we have put together a couple of case studies.

Simple Case

A widow dies passing her estate to her two children in equal proportions.

The estate comprises:

Main residence  £1,000,000
Cash at bank £300,000
Quoted shares £200,000
£1,500,000

The work needing to be done is as follows:

  • Preparation of an income tax return and agreeing the deceased’s tax liabilities up to the date of death;
  • Applying for probate;
  • Preparation of Inheritance tax forms and agreeing the tax liability with HMRC;
  • Gather in the assets and pay the creditors including HMRC;
  • Prepare simple estate accounts and tax returns during the period of administration;
  • Distribute the estate to the beneficiaries.

Our fee for attending to all of this work would be £6,000 including VAT.

Complex case

A widower dies leaving half his estate to his four adult children and half in trust for his 10 grandchildren, contingent upon them each attaining age 25.

The estate comprises:

Main residence  £1,500,000
Investment properties £1,000,000
Private company shares £2,000,000
Cash at bank £500,000
£5,000,000

In addition to the work required in the simple case, some important tax issues would need to be considered. Business Property Relief might be available in relation to some or all of the private company shares. This valuable relief can result in substantial savings in tax. It may also be possible for some of the tax to be paid by instalments. This can enable families to retain assets that would otherwise need to be sold to pay IHT.

Our fee for attending to all of this work would be £16,800 including VAT.

Disbursements

When we administer an estate, we normally incur small disbursements which we pass on to the estate in addition to our fees. These comprise a probate application fee (£155), newspaper notification to protect against claims from unknown creditors (£300) and £1.50 for each copy of a grant of probate.

Hourly Charge-rates

These are as follows, excluding VAT:

Director £295
Manager £185
Senior £75

All work is carefully planned so that those with lower charge rates do much of the labour-intensive work under close supervision.

Complaints Procedure

As a client of Vista Partners it is very important to us that you are completely satisfied with the service that we provide. If, for whatever reason, you are not entirely happy please contact our managing director, Gary Proudlock or Susan Jones, Head of Legal Practice in a Licensed Firm.

Should you be dissatisfied with our response, you may take the matter up with our professional body, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and the legal ombudsman, contact details for which are set out below:

ICAEW

Chartered Accountants’ Hall

Moorgate Place

London EC2R 6EA

T +44(0)20 7920 8100

general.enquiries@icaew.com

Legal Ombudsman

PO Box 6806

Wolverhampton

WV1 9WJ

T +44(0)300 555 033

enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk

Complaints to the Legal Ombudsman should be made within six years of the act or omission or within three years of you becoming aware of the issue, and in either case within six months of our written response to your complaint to us.

Regulatory

Vista Partners Limited is licensed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales to carry out the reserved legal activity of non-contentious probate in England and Wales.

Vista Partners Limited holds professional indemnity insurance.

Details of our probate accreditation can be viewed at icaew.com/probate under reference number C002788597.