Category Archives: Probate

Finders International up for two awards

Finders International, a global probate genealogy company that traces missing heirs to estates, properties and assets, has been shortlisted for the Best Use of Marketing and Social Media and Probate Research Firm of the Year at the British Wills and Probate Awards.

 “Outstanding contributions.”

Karen Babington, the Director of the Practical Vision Network that runs the Today’s Wills and Probate publication, and subsequent founders of the awards, said:

“Demand on professionals working in the [probate] sector during extremely challenging times has never been greater and so it is important that individuals and firms are recognised for their outstanding contributions.”

Finders International hope to be successful at the British Wills and Probate Awards, scheduled to be held on 22 October 2020, to add to their successes; the firm, who have offices in London, Dublin and Edinburgh, have won Best UK Probate Research Firm for two years running at the UK Probate Research Awards

Virtual ceremony

Danny Curran, Managing Director of Finders International, said:

“Everyone at Finders has been working incredibly hard to ensure the highest standards have been maintained during these uncertain times. We are absolutely thrilled to be shortlisted at the British Wills and Probate Awards in not one but two categories!”

The awards, headline sponsored by Arken, will be held virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

To find out more about Finders International, you can visit their website. Alternatively, you can find them on their social media channels: please visit their Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram.


Imminent changes to probate fees 2019

Back in November 2018, the Government announced there were to be changes in the way probate fees would be calculated in England and Wales. When the changes eventually take place, probate fees will no longer be charged as a flat fee. They will be paid according to a sliding scale based on the value of the estate. These changes were due to come into effect on 1 April 2019 but were delayed due to pressures of the ongoing Brexit negotiations. The Government says it will bring the changes before the House of Commons as soon as Parliamentary scheduling allows. Before we go into detail about these changes, let us take a closer look at what exactly probate is and how it works.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process of dealing with an estate on behalf of a person who has died. When someone ‘applies’ for probate, they are requesting permission to carry out the wishes documented in a person’s will. However, the term also applies to the whole process of settling someone’s estate. Administering a will involves settling all debts and distributing all assets according to the requests of the deceased. There are separate rules to follow if a person dies without a will, which is known as dying intestate.

Grant of probate

For permission to take on this responsibility, a grant of probate (or grant of confirmation in Scotland) is required. The executor of the will applies for this grant to prove they are legally entitled to access the deceased’s funds, organise their finances, and gather and distribute the deceased person’s assets in the way they wanted. Only the Executor named in the deceased’s Will can apply for probate.

How will probate fees change?

The changes mean there will be no probate fees for estates worth less than £50,000. However, for properties worth more than this, there will be an increase in fees. Probate fees for estates worth over £2 million will rise to almost £6,000.

Currently probate costs:

  • £215 if you apply yourself; or
  • £155 if you appoint a solicitor to apply for you.

These fees are fixed, regardless of the size of the estate.

Under the proposed new system, the price structure will be as follows:

  • Estates valued at less than £50,000 – NO probate fees (the current lower threshold is £5,000)
  • Estates valued between £50,000 and £300,000 – £250
  • Estates valued between £300,000 to £500,000 – £750
  • Estates valued between £500,000 and £1m – £2,500
  • Estates valued between £1 million to £1.6 million – £4,000
  • Estates worth between £1.6m and £2m – £5,000
  • Estates worth more than £2m – £6,000

Not only will families have to pay much higher costs, but executors will have to find the money to pay fees up front, reclaiming it from the estate after probate has been granted. This could mean borrowing in order to pay the fees upfront.

SInce the introduction of the new fee structure is still ongoing, probate registries are accepting applications for probate prior to HMRC processing the account. Applications must include a note to say that the appropriate Inheritance Tax forms will follow shortly. In the meantime however, some bereaved families could avoid the higher fees by applying for probate now, prior to the new cost structure being approved. So if you’re currently dealing with an estate worth over £50,000, it might be a good idea to submit your application as soon as possible before the fees go up.

Why the change?

The Government’s main reason for the new fee regime is to address the large shortfall in the running of the court service in England and Wales. However, the Probate Registry is just one aspect of the court service, a self-funding one at that.

The current fees already cover the administrative costs. In 2017, the Government stated that the new fee structure is expected to “deliver around £300 million in additional income per year – a substantial contribution to the running costs of HMCTS.”

Photo by arfa adam on


The importance of representation in the administration of an estate

The responsibilities of personal representatives in the administration of an estate are a burden easily taken for granted, simply conferred by a will and happily taken on by a well-intentioned friend or family member of the deceased. In rare cases, however, the obligation can have dire consequences. A recent case involving Inheritance Tax liability (Harris v HMRC (2018) has illustrated the pitfalls of acting as a personal representative for an estate. In Harris the personal representative of an estate transferred a substantial sum of money from the estate to a beneficiary on the basis that the beneficiary would pay the Inheritance Tax burden on that sum.

The beneficiary then left the country for Barbados without paying any of the tax due. The Courts have found that the personal representative is responsible for paying the tax despite not receiving any of the estate himself.

This is a good example of the dangers of taking on a legal obligation and should serve as a cautionary tale, however rare a result of this scale may be. It is far more common for a personal representative to be held responsible for minor infractions as a result of careless filings, such as in Usher & Anor v HMRC (2016). In this case two unrepresented executors incurred a £5,000 fine from the HMRC by mistakenly failing to disclose income on an estate. Despite having no malicious intention, the two representatives were held liable for both the fine and the tax on the undeclared income.

Both of these cases, among many others, show that the obligations that come with administering an estate are not to be taken lightly. In any case, however minor, proper legal advice and representation should be procured to ensure that the process can move forward with minimal risk and provide peace of mind that you will not find yourself liable for costs that you did not anticipate. Probate professionals have the benefit of indemnity insurance, and a wealth of knowledge to avoid getting into situations such as the ones above, and this provides a level of protection that could prove invaluable at a very important time.

For queries or information on how the Private Client team at Meadows Ryan can assist you with your duties as a personal representative, please contact Jag Shah.

Free Deputy Development Day for Local Authorities


The first Finders International Deputy Development Day for local authorities is to take place next month on Thursday 14th September (9am to 3.30pm) at the Holiday Inn, Regents Park, London.

The theme for the day is how to establish links between the public and private sectors, and speakers will discuss how the two can find ways of working together. The event is open to all local authorities in England and Wales.

One of the issues to be discussed will be changes to welfare benefits, often a source of stress for clients, especially those who rely on disability benefits where the changes to personal independent payments are having a profound effect on some of the most vulnerable members of society.

Tracy Atkinson, the welfare benefits and personal injury trust manager from Frenkel Topping, will be updating delegates on the changes and advising what can be done to assist their clients.

Forensic investigator Paul Smith will be discussing his work that looks into elder abuse, while Alison Taylor from Frenkel Topping will outline the topic of investment for people in later life about funding care.

The myths and mysteries surrounding the Senior Courts Costs Office are also on the agenda for the day. Local authorities often work for fixed fees but can apply for the costs to be assessed if more work is involved – giving them the potential to raise income.

Representatives from the Office of the Public Guardian will be on hand to discuss the new OPG102 online submission system as well as representatives from the Department of Work and Pensions. We have invited representatives from the Court of Protection to attend the open forum in the afternoon.

The day’s agenda also includes a talk on what Finders International can offer public sector clients. We have a proven track record, and we have worked with many councils, hospitals and care homes in cases where someone dies and appears to have no will or known next of kin. We also have the Finders International Funeral Fund, which can be used to help subsidise the costs of public health funerals.

Dave Lockwood, Finders’ newly appointed public sector development manager, said: “This is a chance for colleagues in the public sector to mingle with those in the private sector and discover how both sides can flourish in partnership. We want this day to help our colleagues and support them at a time when they face increased pressures and ever-dwindling resources.”

David has extensive experience in the public sector, having worked in four local authorities in London and the South East, dealing with various services and ongoing legislation changes. He has also acted as a deputy to the Court of Protection and is well-versed in the complexities of dealing with providing funerals under the Public Health Act.

A maximum of three delegates from each local authority can attend, and lunch will be provided, as well as refreshments throughout the day. If you’d like to attend, you can register here.

Delegates who would like to ask a question of the experts in the open forum should submit questions in advance. You can do so by emailing David Lockwood –

Crowdfunded funerals on the rise

yolande's funeral

We’re all familiar with the concept of crowdfunding being used to raise money to finance new products or rare medical procedures, but funerals?

Welcome to 2017. Crowdfunding for funerals is on the rise in England. When Big Issue seller Peter Toulson last year, a friend set up an appeal to raise £3,000 for his funeral. The friend managed to get more than £5,000 from donations through the fundraising site JustGiving.

According to figures from JustGiving, more than 2,000 funeral services were funded by crowdfunding from January to September in 2016. In the same period in 2015, there were less than 500 funerals paid for in this way.

No doubt, the rising costs of funerals plays a part in this increase. In England, funeral costs vary according to which part of the country you’re in, but on average a funeral costs roughly £3,700. This only covers the basics – a funeral director, a simple coffin and ceremony and hearse. If you want flowers, catering and a headstone, this pushes the price up considerably.

There is a Social Fund Funeral Payment that is supposed to help people on low incomes with funeral costs, but the maximum award for other funeral costs is fixed  at £700 as it has been since 2003. Funeral director costs have risen steeply in that time, well above the rate of inflation.

If someone dies without money to pay for a funeral and there are no relatives who can cover the costs, often the only resort is a Public Health Funeral, sometimes called a pauper’s funeral. Research by BBC News shows that such funerals cost councils £1.7 million in 2013–14, relating to some 3,500 funerals.

Finders International set up a Funeral Fund last year to help hard-pressed local authorities and health boards deal with the cost of Public Health Funerals.

Daniel Curran, founder and managing director of Finders International, explains:

“These will be cases where there are genuinely no known next of kin – rather than next of kin who just refuse to pay. We will have done the research to prove this and when we receive an application for a subsidy, we’ll assess each case on its merits and decide whether or not we grant a payment. This might fund the funeral completely or partially. As hundreds of thousands of pounds is spent on Public Health Act funerals every year, we hope to make a small difference by giving funds to deserving cases.”

On average, JustGiving users raised £1,300 for each crowd-funded funeral in 2016. In total there were more than 52,000 donations, compared to 9,069 in January to September 2015.

People can opt for a basic cremation which costs £1,600 and just involves a cremation without a service. The singer David Bowie asked that there be no funeral or memorial service after he died last year. He was cremated shortly after he died with no family or friends present.

Talking to the BBC about crowdfunded funerals, JustGiving’s chief operations officer, Charles Wells said it could be a practical way for family, friends and the community to work together to help take the strain off families.

To find out more about Finders International’s Funeral Fund, please see our website, email us at or call us on Freephone (UK only) 0800 088 8796.

Image Yolande’s funeral, cc by Tom Coady on Flickr.

Funeral fund launches to help with cost of pauper funerals

finders-funeral-fund-aw-624x624Finders International have launched a major social initiative which should benefit hard pressed local authorities and hospitals.

When a Public Health Act funeral is being planned, usually at the Council or Hospital’s expense, these organisations can now ask Finders International for a subsidy payment towards this cost by applying to their new Funeral Fund.

These will be cases where there genuinely are no known next of kin (rather than next of kin simply refusing to pay) and Finders International will have done the research to confirm this. On receipt of an application for a subsidy, Finders will assess each case on its merits and decide whether or not to grant a payment, which could be to fund the funeral completely or partially.

How will the money for the fund be raised?

When someone passes away with no known next of kin Councils, Hospitals and others can refer these cases to Finders International who will trace next of kin, free of charge to the Council or Hospital or the referring party in all cases. Where there is less than £5,000 in the estate Finders will not seek any payment from anyone. When the estate is over £5,000 they agree a simple commission fee with the next of kin traced whereby Finders receive payment from their net entitlement at the same time as they receive their money.

Finders will transfer some of the commission earned on these cases to our new Funeral Fund and will also raise money through various charitable events and periodically donate to the Fund.

With hundreds of thousands of pounds being spent on Public Health Act funerals every year, Finders hope to make a small difference by giving funds to deserving cases.

A simple application form can be downloaded or completed online and certain terms and conditions will apply of course, but we look forward to helping Councils, Hospitals and others in the future.

Any questions? Please call Finders free on 0800 085 8796 or email

Heir hunter brings integrity and quality to an unregulated industry

A new industry association has recently been launched today for the professional heir hunting industry, with the aim of providing a single authoritative source of opinion and advice.

The International Association of Professional Probate Researchers, Genealogists & Heir Hunters (IAPPR) is the brainchild of Finders International, who featured heavily in the hit BBC1 TV show ‘Heir Hunters’ earlier this year, and are now filming again for a new series.

Daniel Curran, founder member and media consultant of the IAPPR, said:

“I have been searching for a viable international and professional association for my company for years with no success. The IAPPR will achieve worldwide attention and international support without a doubt – and the public and legal profession will stand to benefit enormously.”

There are amateur associations for genealogists, and for those that traditionally trace their family trees, but the IAPPR will support the corporate world of international probate research, that focuses on tracing the missing or unknown beneficiaries to unclaimed estates, assets and funds.

Louise Lewis of Blake Morgan LLP, a leading firm of solicitors, said:

“As a professional, I am regulated by an independent body. Regulation safeguards the public because it ensures that I have to meet a minimum standard of professional conduct and ethics. It provides peace of mind for those dealing with me. Sadly, I have seen what can happen to clients who deal with unregulated service providers and how expensive and distressing it can be when things go wrong. I welcome Finders voluntarily signing up to a Code of Conduct, confirming that they act in accordance with very high standards. It shows a commitment to protecting their clients and to providing a sustained high quality of service.”

More people are dying alone than ever before

Our work at Finders International means we often work to trace the rightful heirs to the estates of those who have died alone and intestate.

Dying alone is an increasing phenomenon, and Bridget Jones put it astutely – voicing a horror of dying alone, only to be found three weeks later half-eaten by an Alsatian.

Sadly, the fictional Bridget’s fear isn’t so “out there” as recent cases proved – Anne Letrim who wasn’t found until six years after her death (neighbours thought she had moved) and Joyce Carol Vincent whose body was found in her bedsit almost three years after her death, surrounded by the Christmas presents she’d been wrapping and with the TV still on.

The charity Dignity in Dying notes that dying alone is British people’s number one fear about death. But changes in society, an ageing population and the way we live mean dying alone is much more likely. At present, nearly half (49 percent) of people aged 75 and over live alone.

In a response to reports that more people in Wales are drying alone than ever before, Age Cymru said they found it incredibly sad that more people than ever were drying with no known next of kin and no-one to make funeral arrangements on their behalf.

Dying intestate is common too – of the 50 million adults living in the UK, 26 million (52 percent) have not written a will.

Here at Finders International, a lot of the time we find that the rightful beneficiaries to estates had no or very little knowledge of their relative and most express deep regret that their relative died in such lonely circumstances.

Our ageing population means there is no easy solution to this modern-day phenomenon, but keeping in touch with relatives and embracing the community spirit by keeping an eye on elderly neighbours is a start.

10 things every probate solicitor needs to know

Probate is the process required to get the court’s permission to deal with a dead person’s estate – collecting up assets, paying off any debts and distributing assets to the rightful heirs.

  1. If the person who has died has left a valid will, the will usually names the executors (i.e. those responsible for dealing with the estate). If executors are not named or are not willing to act, the rightful heirs can apply to the probate registry for “grant of letters of administration (with will)”.
  2. If there is no valid will, relatives can apply for “grant of letters of administration”. Administrators deal with estates in the absence of wills or executors.
  3. If there is no will, then the rules of intestacy mean that there is an order for who inherits – spouse or civil partner, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, parents, siblings or their children, half-brothers or sisters and their children, grandparents, uncles, aunts or their children, half-uncles or aunts or their children and finally, The Crown or Duchy of Cornwall or Lancaster.
  4. Grant of probates are always needed if the deceased held assets worth more than £15,000 in a bank account, but probate might not need to be obtained at all if the deceased’s assets are owned jointly with another person – a husband or wife, for example.
  5. Finders International can help with estate administration – from tracing unknown beneficiaries right through to safe estate administration.
  6. Finders has a full international network and we can trace beneficiaries world-wide. In one recent case, we were able to trace beneficiaries in the Ukraine with news of life-changing sums of money.
  7. For a full list of Finders International services for professionals, check out this link here.
  8. We are members of the Professional Association of Legal Services.
  9. We are the longest-standing supplier of Aviva online insurance policies – such as missing beneficiary indemnity insurance policies – and we are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
  10. Instant telephone quotes or free advice is available from Finders International. Call 020 7490 4935 for assistance. Lines are open 24 hours a day/ seven days a week.

Falling probate fees set to make probate more accessible

“Increased competition in the probate market is very welcome, and the pressure on fees will ease the financial burden on relatives and executors at what is already a very stressful time.” – Words from the chief executive of a Glasgow-based plan provider. Due to this increased competition, prices in the probate market are likely to fall. This will help advisers whittle down the large total of £870m spent per year by probate solicitors’ clients on resolving the delegation of the recently deceased’s estates.

The increase in competition is directly linked to the fact that on November 3rd new legislation came into effect allowing chartered legal executives to offer probate assistance. Probate lawyers will now have outside competition for their services, and probate fees are likely to fall. Lower prices may invite the 46% of families that don’t currently use professional services now to use them. Despite the fact that chartered accountants can now offer similar services to probate lawyers like Thomson Snell and Passmore from Kent and Dartford, they still have to reach a professional standard in order to be able to offer probate and conveyancing services. This is done by receiving authorisation from Ilex Professional Standards, to demonstrate that they are knowledgeable enough to practice in probate without the supervision of solicitors.

Analysis of the costs of probate lawyers settling disputes, done by the Glasgow-based company, have suggested that the average bills of probate and legal services for families and executors that use them comes to £3,000, generating total fees of £870m per year. Fees in probate are charged in a number of different ways, which is why they vary extensively. For example, certain companies such as banks may charge a percentage of the estate’s value; this is usually around 4% or 5% which can work out expensive compared to the likes of probate solicitors fees. Probate lawyers’ fees are most likely to be constructed around standards set by the Law Society, usually around 0.75% of the value of the estate as an initial fee, plus around 1.5% of the value of other assets being dealt with such as accessories etc. Will-writers are often the cheapest option available due to the undercutting of prices to attract business.

The benefits that are offered by a fall in probate fees are stark. Families and executioners that would otherwise be priced out of the probate law market will now find it more financially accessible, meaning an increased number of probate lawyers will be in demand at a lower average price.

To find out more on probate and estate planning, visit the legal news website Solicitors Journal.