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Compare the market, if you can

From 6 December 2018 law firms are required to publish their costs for obtaining probate and administering estates on their websites. The Solicitors Regulation Authority have decreed that such a move is required in the interests of clarity and transparency for consumers so that they can compare supposed "like-for-like" services. 

However, probate can be complex and varied and two estates are rarely the same making such comparisons difficult and often meaningless. Value alone is no great indicator of complexity. An estate may contain "only" a house and a bank account but if the deceased dies intestate, with significant debts or  minor children where the surviving parent is unable to act (or as in one case I dealt with - all three) then the costs can quickly spiral to match those of a more valuable estate. 

It is important therefore for consumers to ascertain exactly what is included in a firm's fee, and what is not. Some firms list multiple add-ons or extras but if the executor is not familiar with the estate or the requirements of the administration process then it may be hard for them to determine which are relevant. 

A charge based on a  percentage of the  value of the estate gives a clearer idea up front of the likely final bill and usually includes all the services required to finalise matters.

The answer as always is to shop around. When approaching firms for a quote try and have an idea of the value of the estate in question and any complicating circumstances,  such as a missing will or missing beneficiaries, family disputes, overseas assets or extensive business interests as this will enable individual firms to give you a more accurate idea of costs. 

Compare the market of course, but sometimes easier said than done.

Comparing prices for legal services will become easier from today, thanks to the introduction of new rules by the solicitors' regulator.”