Pre-paid Probate

Some companies – not usually solicitors – offer pre-paid probate services. However, there has been much discussion about the merits of these because the small-print in the contract you sign may mean that substantially more is paid than is either necessary or required when the estate is administered.

Normally the cost of probate is deducted from the estate at the end of the process of administering the estate. In most cases the estate is large enough for the costs not to unduly distort the values of legacies received. However if your estate is small – for instance if you do not own a house, or if your estate is diminished due to care costs, then the cost of probate could exceed the value of the estate, and no legacies are received.

The practice of pre-payment of funeral plans has been around for a long time, so why not pre-pay the probate costs too? Well the argument for pre-paid funeral plans is stronger by the fact that funerals need to be organised quickly and well before funds from the estate have been realised. This means that the relatives can be out of pocket and have to find funds to pay for the funeral – at least in the short term until the estate is distributed which can be months later. But with probate, urgency is not an issue since the fees are simply paid when the final estate is settled.

There appears to be few advantages in using a pre-paid probate scheme, and you should resist being pressurised by a salesman. If you decide to sign up for pre-paid probate, you should examine any contract you sign very carefully.

Those who are best placed to get a good price for probate work will be your executors. The best way to ensure that probate costs are reduced is to ensure you appoint executors who will be concerned to keep costs to the minimum.