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Executors are entitled to be reimbursed for any out of pocket expenses they have incurred in connection with the Estate during the Probate process. Even though Executors are usually responsible for a substantial amount of work during the administering of the Estate, they are not entitled to be paid for it unless it allows for it in the Will. Professionals such as lawyers, banks and accountants do charge fees for their work if they are appointed as Executors.
You will often find that solicitors have been appointed to act as Executors of a Will, especially if there are very few surviving relatives of the deceased available to be appointed.
An Executor can renounce their right to act as an Executor and it order to do this they must sign a Deed of Renunciation. This will allow for any other named Executor to act in their place. If the outgoing Executor is the only named Executor, the Probate Registry will have to appoint another.
If you are dealing with an Estate on behalf of a deceased relative or friend and you are a named Executor, you may feel that you would rather act as the sole Executor as opposed to having a Solicitor acting with you thereby increasing costs. It practice, it can be difficult to get someone to renounce their Executorship. However, in an article published in the Guardian called, “Probate – the £600m rip-off” on 18 April 2009 (which relates to the high fees charged by banks and other professionals for dealing with an Estate, whatever its size), reference is made to an individual who managed to ‘persuade’ the solicitor Executor to renounce their Executorship since he was concerned that costs would spiral. He threatened to ask the Law Society for an assessment of their costs since they would not agree to dealing with the Estate for a fixed fee that he had put forward to them. Both he and his son had been appointed Executors along with the solicitor, so with the solicitor now out of the picture he had more freedom in relation to the costs associated with the dealing of the Estate.
It is therefore important to bear in mind that if a professional has been appointed to act as Executor, the costs can mount up even if the Estate is simple. You will have little control over the fees side of things since it is usually the case that the professional Executor will charge for work as they go along (i.e. on an hourly basis )or will charge a percentage of the Estate, or, even both. It is ideal to get them to agree to a fixed fee but this is often not possible. If you can get the professional Executor to renounce their right to act as Executor then all well and good, you can then hunt around for an experienced Probate Specialist who can provide you with a good service at a reasonable, fixed rate.
If you are considering undertaking the Probate work yourself, think carefully. It can involve a substantial amount of work, including dealing with Inheritance Tax (IHT), corresponding with all the asset holders, distributing the Estate and retaining detailed records and receipts of everything. Also, very importantly, you should be aware that if any mistakes are made by the Executor, they are held personally liable. It is therefore worth instructing a Probate Specialist to do the work for you to avoid any problems further down the line.