Tips for hiring a lawyer
For some people, managing the estate will just be too much. This is totally understandable. So that you can make an informed decision, here is some information about how they charge and some tips on keeping the costs down.
How do they charge?
A lot of lawyers will keep a note of how much time they spend on your case and charge accordingly. This will be charged at their hourly rate which you can find out before you decide to become their client. In Scotland, lawyers commonly charge between £230 and £300 per hour (after VAT has been added), sometimes more.
This is still quite rare as it is incredibly difficult to predict how much work will be involved at the beginning. There will be strict limits around what is included and what’s not, meaning that any unexpected things that crop up will cost more.
This type of charging should be avoided as it will have no bearing on the work that’s been done. A typical percentage that lawyers charge is 3% or 4% of the total estate meaning £3-4,000 of fees per £100,000 of assets.
What can I do to keep costs down?
Outline the estate
Create a list of all the organisations the deceased had a financial relationship with. You could take this a step further and find out all the values of all the accounts as they were on the date of death.
Collect all the money
Lawyers often make extra charges to receive any money (like from a bank), so tell them you’ll collect all the money. If there is no will then they may have to handle the money under the terms of an insurance bond. Having said that, lawyers are usually willing to negotiate and you could ask them to drop this type of charge out of their terms of business, with or without a will.
Contact them infrequently
Most lawyers will be charging you every time they get back to you (or anyone else who is contacting them). You could save things up and ask all your questions in one go, perhaps fortnightly.
Coordinate with others
Try to coordinate with anyone else involved so all communication goes through one person to avoid paying for them to explain something to more than one person.
It’s always worth shopping around for the best terms. Ask friends and family for recommendations, especially around cost and how well the lawyer communicated with them. The lawyer you go with to manage the estate may not be the best one to sell any property as the property selling market is a lot more competitive.
Know what you’re signing up to
It is incredibly important to read the terms of business the solicitor is obliged to give you before you become their client. Often under the ‘Fees’ section, they may have percentage charges or vague clauses talking about responsibility and urgency - you should ask for these to be removed as they can add thousands to a bill.