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What to look for in Wills & Probate services

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There is sometimes a big difference in what law firms charge to draft a Will or administer an estate after someone’s death. There can be a particularly large variation based on location, with some solicitors in the South East charging significantly more than solicitors elsewhere for example (Legal Services Board – Prices of Consumer Legal Services report 2017)

You do not need to see a solicitor in your home town and face to face to have a Will drawn up or deal with a deceased person’s estate. Everything can be done at a distance and the savings in costs can be considerable.

At Stephensons pride ourselves on delivering a nationwide service but in a friendly and approachable way.

You do not have to come into our offices for us to guide you through the legal processes and give you a great service.

We can speak to you by telephone or video conferencing. We can send you documents electronically or by good old fashioned post, whatever is best for you.

Being based in the North West, with lower overheads than in some areas of the country we can give you a price competitive service but still make you feel comfortable and well looked after. You will have access to a specialist solicitor and get to know them as well as you would do if you were sat in their office. Unfortunately the only thing we can’t do for you this way is give you a tea and biscuits! But more importantly we will answer your questions, whether you may think them silly or not, and we will put you mind at rest.

We are transparent in our pricing and will often be able to quote you a fixed fee. If your matter is a complex one we may not be able to do it on a fixed fee but we would agree a charging rate with you and estimate of costs. You would agree that and you can cap costs at various stages so that there are no nasty surprises and you have control.

It is always a good idea when considering which solicitor’s firm to use for these sort of services, to check some of the following matters.

Does the price include all of the charges? Some solicitors quote a low fee because they may not be including VAT or some payments to third parties such as Probate Registry fees, which all have to be paid and add to the final amount. Make sure that you know and are comfortable with what the final amount is going to be.

Some solicitors, when dealing with the administration of an estate charge a percentage of the estate fee. That can look low. For example 1% or 1.5%. However a 1.5% fee on a straightforward estate of £300,000 would be £4,500. We would charge about £1,575 to administer the same estate. So be careful of percentage fees and again if comparing prices make sure that you are comparing the full final amount that it will cost.

Some solicitors, including ourselves, charge an hourly rate for more complex cases. This is because it is sometimes not possible to know how big or complex the matter may become. However don’t just go for the lowest hourly rate. The important thing is how many hours it is estimated to take at that rate, again giving you the final figure. Lower hourly rates may be charged by less experienced people, who take more hours to do the work and then cost you more in in the long-term. The solicitor should give you an estimate of the total costs, which may be more useful than just knowing the hourly rate.

Finally don’t just go on price. It is no good going to the cheapest solicitor and then finding that they don’t respond to your queries or don’t give you the help you need. Some solicitors and non-solicitors are able to charge very low prices because they get you to do much of the work and there is minimal contact.

You should also check the status of the organisation that you are thinking of using. Some organisations involved in this work are not solicitors. That is perfectly legal but we take pride in the fact that as solicitors we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. We have to meet exacting professional standards, have compulsory insurance and are part of an ombudsman scheme. It is worth checking that you can have that confidence about any organisation that may be giving your business to.

First impressions count. If you experienced friendly but professional communication from your first enquiry which gave you the confidence that the work would be done well and that your concerns would be addressed, you may think that that is worth a paying a bit more for than a rock bottom price where those may not apply.

We would urge you to contact us and talk through you legal issue with us. We hope that if you do that we will give you the confidence to use us and that you will be satisfied that you are getting value for money not just the cheapest.

If you would like to discuss how our Wills & Probate solicitors can assist you please call us on 0161 696 6238 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you to discuss your requirements.