The Cost of Administering an Estate...

The Times recently published an article with the headline “Solicitors acting as Executors charge crippling fees”. No axe to grind there then!

It is true that some solicitors overcharge for administering estates. Some chip shops overcharge for mushy peas and some plumbers overcharge for unblocking toilets. To suggest, however that all solicitors overcharge for administering estates and that, under no circumstances, should anyone ever consider appointing solicitors as Executors, is dangerously simplistic.  

There are many and various reasons why solicitors are sometimes the preferred, indeed the only viable, choice of Personal Representative. Obvious examples are where the Will-maker has no trusted family/friends and is leaving his or her estate to charity. Another is where the family are the beneficiaries but they hate each other, so an independent Executor is necessary to ensure the winding up of an estate without personal issues intruding.

Solicitors’ fees for administering estates are subject to the same checks and balances as any other Solicitors’ fees, i.e. they can be reduced if they are genuinely excessive and solicitors are regulated and insured when acting as Executors, just as they are in any other field of activity - unlike the largely unregulated Will-writing field.  In one case we are currently dealing with which is far from untypical, a couple were quite literally railroaded into appointing the Will-Writing company joint Executors of their Will, and also sole Trustees of totally unnecessary and very expensive Trusts (set up for the ostensible purpose of “protecting against care home fees”). The amount they were charged for this was outrageous and the amount that the same Will-writers wanted to charge for administering the estate, was equally mind-boggling. The charge out rate for one of their “professional Trustees” is three times what a high-street Solicitor would charge and more than the charge out rate for a partner in a City of London commercial firm!

There are pros and cons of appointing Solicitors to be Executors as there are pros and cons to most things in life. What you can expect however, is that if you get advice from a suitably qualified solicitor, particularly one who is a member of a specialist body such as Solicitors for the Elderly is that it will be impartial. Compare and contrast that with the situation our clients now find themselves in.

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