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Estate Administration

Estate Administration


Winckworth Sherwood’s Private Client department has a long history and extensive expertise in estate administration (also known as probate), and is particularly experienced in handling larger and more complex estates, including estates with overseas elements.

Estate Administration Services

Whilst each estate administration is different depending on the nature and complexity of a person’s assets, in most cases our involvement in the administration of an estate will encompass the whole estate administration process from start to finish. In broad terms, this will include our undertaking the following on behalf of the executors:

  • Notifying various persons and organisations of the death.
  • Advertising for unknown creditors or beneficiaries.
  • Ascertaining the assets and liabilities of the estate as at the date of death and obtaining values for bank accounts and other assets, such as antiques and artwork, land and property and business assets.
  • Reviewing any gifts made by the deceased within seven years of the date of death and advising on the tax implications of these.
  • Preparing the inheritance tax account to H M Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Where tax is due, we will work with you to consider the options available to meet that tax. We will then submit the account and any payment of tax due.
  • Preparing the executors’ oath and arranging for the oath to be sworn.
  • Applying to the Probate Registry for the Grant of Representation.
  • Lodging the Grant of Representation with all the relevant parties and bodies and collecting in all assets of the estate.
  • Arranging for the payment of legacies and discharging all liabilities.
  • Paying any expenses arising in relation to the estate’s administration.
  • Reporting to HMRC on any amendments to the value of the assets and liabilities previously reported and dealing with any enquiries raised by HMRC.
  • Liaising with the deceased’s accountant or tax adviser.
  • Liaising with other professional advisers, as required: investment managers and land agents, for example.
  • Preparing tax returns and Estate Accounts for the administration period.

Estate Administration Costs

Our service is tailored to individuals’ needs as no two estate administrations are the same.

To this end, we aim to provide a clear and transparent indication of our professional charges at the outset of any instruction and our fees are reviewed with the executors on an ongoing basis, throughout the estate administration process.

The consumer group Which? provides an approximate guide to probate fees detailing that the average probate fees charged by banks acting as executor and carrying out the estate administration typically equate to 4% of the gross value of the estate whereas the probate fees charged by solicitors carrying out the estate administration would typically equate to 2% of the gross value of the estate.

Generally, however, we tend to find our total fees (ignoring VAT and disbursements) in the administration of a typical estate  equate to between 1.5 – 3.5% of the gross value of an estate.

Examples of issues which lead to our costs being at the higher end of this fee range include: shares in private family businesses, ownership of overseas property, a badly drafted will, and family disputes over the deceased’s property or their will.

For our work in the administration of an estate our professional charges comprise the time spent by the members of our team engaged with the administration (our hourly rates are set out below) and may include  a charge of 1% of the gross value of the estate up to £1.5M and 0.25% for value in excess of £1.5M.

It is always difficult to predict the overall cost of our fees in any individual estate administration until we are able to fully understand the estate assets and the complexity of the estate.

Our hourly charging rates for professional staff engaged in estate administration are as follows:-

*Fee earners: senior associate, associate, solicitor, trainee solicitor and probate clerk.


Our fees attract VAT which is charged at the standard rate (currently 20%) in addition to the fees set out above.


Disbursements are expenses payable to third parties which we incur on your behalf in the course of your matter.

Examples of  disbursements likely to be incurred in the administration of an estate (these are indicative – there may be others) are as follows:

In addition, there may be additional expenses such as bank transfer charges, photocopying charges and a file set up fee of £30 plus VAT.

Key stages and timescales

In terms of anticipated timescales, the nature of the assets in the estate and the complexity of the estate will have a direct bearing on the time which it will take to carry out the keys stages of the administration. The extent to which family members are able to assist us in the information gathering stage of the process will also have a bearing on the time which we will need to spend.

Broadly, we usually aim to have collected in all the information required for the inheritance tax return, submitted the inheritance tax return, made a payment of all or part of the inheritance tax due and obtained the Grant of Representation within 3 – 6 months of taking instructions.

It will then typically take between 9 and 12 months to collect in the estate assets, settle the liabilities, satisfy any queries raised by HMRC (which often involve the District Valuer), agree the inheritance tax position and receive clearance from HMRC for both inheritance tax and income tax/capital gains tax purposes and complete the administration of the estate.

As we are required to do under our professional rules we will provide with you with best information we can about the likely overall cost when you first instruct us at the outset of your matter and update you at appropriate stages as the matter progresses. When an unforeseen complexity arises or where the way in which you ask us to proceed means additional work, we will discuss the likely impact on the overall cost and timescale with you.

Experience and qualifications

Usually, a fee earner or legal assistant would do the majority of the day to day estate administration under a partner’s supervision. A partner would be more directly involved in providing strategic advice in relation to the administration and how best to deal with the distribution of the estate in line with the expressed wishes of the deceased and, in certain cases, to advise on any post death planning.

Our Team is led by Hugh MacDougald who has over 40 years’ experience working on estate management. Hugh is supported by Partner Tim Snaith who is a highly experienced private client lawyer. The wider team consists of 4 further lawyers as well as an administrative support team.

Who to contact