At Cowling Swift & Kitchin we pride ourselves on our long history of providing high quality private client work including:

  • Probate and Estate Administration
  • Powers of Attorney including registration with the Office of the Public Guardian
  • Estate Tax Planning
  • Trusts
  • Wills

We offer a home visit service for those clients who may have difficulty with transportation or attending the office.

Whatever you may need advice and assistance with, you can be sure that Cowling Swift & Kitchin will be with you every step of the way.

Please contact us for more information

Probate and Estate Administration

We offer a sensitive and comprehensive service which will resolve the legal and financial consequences that are inevitable when someone dies. We can help if there isn’t a legally valid Will in place. We will advise you of what steps to take and the processes which have to be followed.

Our service includes:

  • Advising on family provision
  • Collecting in any assets of the estate
  • Completing the Inland Revenue returns
  • Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries
  • Obtaining a grant of probate or letters of administration
  • Preparing administration accounts
  • Settling any tax liabilities
  • Settling any debts and funeral expenses

Probate work within the firm is carried out by Mr Richard Rusby, Miss Claire Spence, Mr Alan Ware and Mrs Holly Knight

Probate is a potentially complex legal process and is often difficult to provide a fixed legal quote in respect of the overall cost of such work. All probate work within the firm is carried out by a fully qualified solicitor and our firms charging rate would be £250.00 per hour generally plus VAT and disbursements.

We would usually arrange an initial meeting with you to discuss your case and once we have obtained full details from you we will be able to provide you with a more accurate guide as to the likely overall costs in acting on your behalf which will be confirmed to you in writing and prior to you formally instructing us to act on your behalf.

Typical additional disbursements that will arise in a probate matter will be as follows:-

Administration of Estates

Administering an estate when someone dies can be a daunting task. There may be a variety of assets to deal with, for example, business assets, real estate or foreign property. There may also be inheritance tax to pay and potentially HMRC enquiries to address.

If you are appointed as an executor of an estate then we can assist with the administration process from start to finish. We have a depth of experience and knowledge in dealing with estates, particularly those of a complex nature, with sensitivity and professionalism to help you through this difficult time.

We also have expertise in dealing with estates where an individual dies domiciled outside the UK but lived or owned assets in the UK, and so we are used to working closely with lawyers and other professionals in overseas jurisdictions. We can advise on the administration of the UK estate in accordance with the correct governing law and ensure that all UK tax and compliance issues are dealt with.

Key stages of the work

We deal with a range of different estates.  However, we would typically expect the scope of our work to involve some or all of (but not limited to) the following:

  • Preliminary research concerning the background to the estate and discussions, including considering the terms of the Will if there is one.
  • Holding an initial meeting with the Personal Representatives.
  • Considering scope of work following the initial meeting and preparing a fee estimate and an engagement letter.
  • Drafting a Deed of Renunciation, if required.
  • Considering the availability of Inheritance Tax ("IHT") reliefs, for example Business Relief in relation to any business assets.
  • Arranging Trustee Act Notices.
  • Writing to institutions for the date of death valuations of bank accounts, investments and any other assets and liaising with valuer regarding valuation of any personal items.
  • Reviewing the deceased's bank statements to assess lifetime gifts.
  • Liaising with the Executors in relation to the date of death value of the properties and organising (if appropriate).
  • Preparing a schedule of assets and liabilities for the estate.
  • Preparing the IHT account, Executors' Oath/Statement of Truth and IHT calculations.
  • Submitting the IHT account to HM Revenue & Customs, arranging the initial payment of IHT and submitting the probate application.
  • General advice about the probate process and assistance up to obtaining the Grant of Probate.
  • Preparing initial draft of estate accounts
  • Meeting with client to discuss sale/cashing in /transfer of assets
  • Preparing letters of authority, encashment forms, stock transfer forms and liaising with asset holders as appropriate
  • Collecting in proceeds of sale/encashment and settling outstanding liabilities and IHT
  • Paying legacies
  • Corresponding with HMRC as appropriate
  • Liaising with Executors and correspondence with residuary beneficiaries regarding distributions as appropriate, including bankruptcy checks etc
  • Depending on nature of estate considering any foreign property/law/tax issues post grant
  • Liaising with accountants to complete deceased's lifetime tax affairs and administration period tax affairs
  • Obtaining IHT clearance from HMRC
  • Finalising the estate accounts
  • Arranging the final distributions to the beneficiaries
  • Day to day telephone calls and correspondence with executors.
  • Updating Executors/beneficiaries on regular basis as agreed.

Exclusions

We would usually recommend that an accountant attend to Administration period income tax and capital gains tax compliance and returns.

We would normally instruct a broker to deal with the sale of shares on your behalf.

We are able to provide expert advice in relation to post-death tax planning, including deeds of variation, but this would be in addition to the services we provide in dealing with the administration of an estate.

Cost Options

Hourly Rates:

We use our comprehensive costing matrix to provide a costs estimate for dealing with the work required to deal with the administration of the estate from start to finish when you initially instruct us. However, we cannot rule out the possibility of our fees being more than this estimate. Consequently, any estimate provided is for guidance only and is not a guaranteed cap or quote to which we are committed.

Our hourly rates for the members of the team range from £210 (assistant solicitor) to £250 (partner).  These rates are exclusive of VAT at 20%. 

Fixed Fee:

A fixed fee provides a measure of budgetary predictability and certainty within the scope, assumptions and exclusions that will be set out in our engagement letter. Most of the fee risk sits with us.  If there is a cost overrun, that arises from something within the scope assumptions and exclusions, we will absorb the additional cost and will not pass it on to our client. 

This option does not completely remove all of the cost risk from the client.  If there was a departure from the scope, assumptions and exclusions for any reason, it is likely that our fee will need to be adjusted upwards to cover the extra time incurred.  However, we will discuss this as soon as we become aware of the possibility.

Other pricing options

Experience tells us that the administration of an estate tends to run very efficiently when we are asked to deal with it from start to finish.  However, we are conscious that some clients like to undertake certain tasks themselves and we work with clients to accommodate this.  Consequently, we are able to offer alternative pricing arrangements depending upon the extent to which the client wants us to be involved.

Illustrative costs estimate

The variety of estates that we deal with means that it is very difficult to provide a generic estimate of our costs in dealing with the administration as each estate is different.

However, if we were asked to provide a cost indication using our costing matrix in the case of an uncontested estate with the Executors, beneficiaries and assets located in the UK, a typical fee range for dealing with this type of estate from start to finish could be from between £5,000 to £12,000 plus VAT and disbursements (payments made to 3rd parties on your behalf), depending on the extent of the assets in the estate, the number of beneficiaries to correspond with and the extent to which we would need to liaise with HMRC (and any other complications that may arise that were not apparent at the outset).

We must emphasise that this costs indication is for illustrative purposes only and we would need a significant amount of background information about an estate before we would be able to provide a reliable range of costs.

Usually, there will be disbursements to pay in addition to professional costs and these could include:

  • Probate fees currently £155 (Please note that the government has issued proposals to increase fees in the future. We will attempt to make the application for the grant before the fee changes but due to the nature of the process and reliance on third parties this may not be possible).
  • Trustee Act Notices (advertising for creditors) approximately £150 to £300
  • Bankruptcy searches (in relation to beneficiaries) approximately £2
  • Bank transfer fee (approximately £6)

How long may your matter take?

How long an estate administration may take will depend on many factors as outlined above. However for illustration purposes only using the example provided above, the time taken may be up to 12 months.

With regard to the length of time to complete a probate case is again very difficult to give any accurate indication of this. We are dependent upon matters being dealt with at the Probate Registry and the length of time that it takes to conclude the matter will depend very much upon the complexity of the matter, whether there are any properties to sell and whether any tax issues arise.

Again more accurate information with regard to the likely timescale will be provided following our initial meeting with you.

Powers of Attorney

There are many reasons why a person may become unable to manage their affairs and make difficult personal or financial decisions. It could be the result of an accident, physical ill health or the onset of a mental illness. Getting older can also have an impact on the ability to manage everyday routines, such as paying bills and managing a budget. It is worthwhile taking the time to plan for any eventuality that may occur. If there is no provision in place then it can make it difficult if not impossible for your family or friends to make decisions for you. It will also mean that the Court of Protection will appoint someone to manage your affairs and you will not have any control over who they appoint.

The answer is to appoint someone, whilst you still have the mental capacity to do so, by way of a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). This person or persons (your attorney/s) will look after your affairs and taking into account your wishes, will make decisions on your behalf if necessary.

Since 1 October 2007, there are two types of LPA:

  • Property & Affairs LPA – this allows your attorney to deal with your property and finances
  • Personal Welfare LPA – this allows your attorney to make health and welfare decisions. This could also include giving or refusing consent to the continuation of life sustaining.

If you made an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) before 1 October 2007, this is still valid in relation to decisions regarding your property and finances. However, if you would like to give authority over your health and welfare then you can still make a Personal Welfare LPA.

Please contact us for more information

Tax Planning

We are all subject to Tax in one form or another and it covers a broad spectrum of issues. The advice you receive and the decisions you make can have a huge impact on your liability. We will be happy to advise you on Estate Tax planning.

Please contact us for more information

Trusts

A Trust is used to manage assets for people. There are a number of different types of trust with differing objectives.

These are some of the things a Trust can be used for:

  • Controlling and protecting family assets
  • To look after the affairs of someone who lacks mental capacity or is too young to manage themselves
  • Passing assets to another during your lifetime
  • Passing on assets after your death

Please contact us for more information

Wills

If you die without making a Will, your estate may not go to those you wish to provide for. Your estate is made up of your assets which includes your home and its contents, your savings and investments, your car and any insurance policies. Planning ahead will allow you to clearly indicate who should get what from your estate.

Some of the things you may wish to consider are:

  • Making a provision for your children, especially if you are divorced or separated
  • Making a provision for your spouse, partner or friend
  • Making a gift to a charity

Please contact us for more information