What are Reasonable Expenses in Probate?

Author:
Mubin Ahmed
Wills and Trusts Solicitor
Date:
09/03/2020

If you’re dealing with an Estate of someone who has died, depending on whether or not the deceased made a Will, you’ll act as a Personal Representative (explained below). Whilst completing the Probate process, you may find that there are certain administrative and legal expenses, which can vary depending on the size and complexity of the Estate.

These expenses are sometimes called ‘reasonable expenses’ and it’s possible for you, as the Personal Representative, to claim these expenses back from the Estate.

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What is a Personal Representative?

There are two types of Personal Representative who can deal with someone’s Estate after they die. They are:

  • An Executor
  • An Administrator

Which type of Personal Representative applies depends on whether the person who died left a valid Will or not.

When you make a Will, you will appoint one or more Executors of your Estate. By doing this, you decide who will deal with Probate and your beneficiaries when you die.

If you die without making a Will, inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy will decide who will deal with your Estate. They are called an Administrator.

It might seem a bit confusing, but whether you’re an Executor or an Administrator you are the Personal Representative and you could have reasonable expenses associated with the Probate process.  

What is a Reasonable Expense in Probate?

Just because you’ve been chosen to be a Personal Representative, it doesn’t mean that you should be out of pocket because of that role.

You may have expenses that you could claim back from the Estate. These could be costs that you’ve had to pay before you have access to the Estate. These can include:

  • Probate Registry (Court) fees
  • Funeral expenses
  • Professional valuation services
  • Clearing and cleaning costs for a property
  • Legal fees for selling a property
  • Travel expenses
  • Postage costs
  • Settling Inheritance Tax with HMRC
  • Legal fees

In some cases, these expenses will be small amounts, but you must keep a record of all the expenses you’ve had to pay out and make sure you keep all receipts because preparing Estate accounts is one of the duties you are required to perform.

It’s important to know that you’re not entitled to claim back any ‘time spent’ performing your duties as an Executor, though in some cases, it could be in the Will that you should receive a specific amount as an Executor.

How Much Does Probate Cost?

It really does depend on the size of the Estate and value of the assets in it. The bigger the Estate, the more time you will need to complete the Probate process. This can also affect how many expenses you may incur whilst doing your Executor duties.

There can also be things that delay the Probate process, such as the sale of property, or settling certain debts.

Instructing a Probate Solicitor to help you administer the Estate can be the right decision for you as a Personal Representative. If you know that you don’t have the time or the skills to complete the Probate process, which could take a year to complete; this will be the right choice for you. Some very complex Estates need the skills and expertise of a Probate Solicitor to make sure they’re done properly. For example, some Estates will require the preparation of Inheritance Tax, Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax forms, along with payments for each being paid to HMRC.

As a Personal Representative, you are legally responsible. You can be held responsible for any mistakes or incorrect calculations made, so using specialist Probate Solicitors can help you to make sure the whole process is done correctly.

What if the Expenses aren’t Reasonable?

If you want to claim back expenses from the Estate, they have to be reasonable. An Executor or Administrator of an Estate has to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries named in the Will. If they claim more money from the Estate in expenses then less money goes to the beneficiaries.

If you’re a beneficiary and you’re worried that the Personal Representative is taking more money out of the Estate than they should ask them to show you a record of everything they’re spending.

If you are the Executor, keeping a record will allow you to show that all the expenses you’re taking out of the Estate are reasonable.

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