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Dealing with a deceased person's estate.

This article appeared in the Winter 2010 edition of Retired & Living in Sheffield magazine.

deceased estate legal advice

Recent press coverage has highlighted the high fees charged by some high street banks and unscrupulous will-writing firms for acting as executor of a deceased person's estate. Figures of up to 4.5% have been charged, equating to a bill of £18,000 on an estate of £400,000.

An executor is someone you appoint in your Will to carry out the instructions contained in it. They can be a family member, friend, a firm of solicitors or anyone you choose. An executor can also be a beneficiary of your estate.

If you have a substantial estate or one which is financially complex it may be advisable to appoint a firm of solicitors or someone who has the knowledge required to deal with your finances and tax liabilities in the correct way.

Although untangling some people's finances can be complex, 4.5% does seem expensive when an experienced firm of solicitors like Norrie Waite & Slater would normally charge much less than this. Charges would normally be on an hourly basis, or in cases where a percentage fee was appropriate, not usually more than an additional 1%.

That is a huge difference, but many people still ask, why do I need someone to do this for me, can I not handle it myself?

The answer depends on the complexity of the deceased's financial affairs, and your knowledge of, and willingness to get to grips with tax issues and the law. There are many potentially costly pitfalls in handling an estate yourself, which have to be weighed up against the savings that an experienced solicitor can deliver, often more than offsetting their fees. A few points to consider include:

  • It doesn"t have to be all or nothing. You can instruct a solicitor to deal with only certain aspects of the estate. For example, you may be comfortable dealing with things such as utility bills, banks and life insurance, but would rather a solicitor deal with finalising the income tax, inheritance tax and property transactions.
  • When someone dies part way through a tax year, a solicitor may be able to save you money by calculating and claiming any overpayment of income tax from HM Revenue and Customs. This would not be returned to you automatically otherwise.
  • Inheriting money may affect a beneficiary's own tax position. A solicitor can advise you on the best way of dealing with this to minimise any future tax liability.
  • Many people who lose a loved one to a disease such as cancer or heart disease wish to make a donation from the estate to a relevant charity. A solicitor can advise you as to whether a deed of variation to the person's will can be used to reduce the amount of inheritance tax payable by the estate.

These are just a few examples of where a specialist probate solicitor can save you money. For further advice contact us on 0114 2766166 or visit

Follow this link for more information on Probate.

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