Which? calls for fairer probate feesBanks' charges appear disproportionate
25 February 2010
Which? wants banks to play fair with executor fees.
Banks are demanding high fees for executing wills and Which? believes charges bear little relation to the work involved in winding up an estate.
The banks charge a percentage of the estate, rather than a flat fee. For Barclays this starts at 4.5%, for Lloyds and RBS 4%, and for HSBC 1.5%. Even a modest estate of £250,000 could set you back £10,000 at Lloyds. For a £350,000 estate, it would cost £14,000 at Lloyds, £13,250 at Barclays, £12,000 at NatWest/RBS and £5,250 at HSBC, the cheapest.
Choosing a professional executor can have major implications in terms of cost. It is a subject you should consider carefully when you make a will. Our online advice guide outlines some of the available options.
Asking an executor to stand down
Beneficiaries can ask a bank to stand down if fees are too high. HSBC used to be the only bank that did this, but others we asked said they could be flexible (Barclays also said it considers its charge after work has been done and will reduce it if appropriate). The banks do charge an admin fee – from £100 plus VAT at RBS/NatWest to £250 at Barclays.
Francis McCrory told us that when his father died, the will was handled by the Woolwich building society (now owned by Barclays). Its agent demanded £18,000 plus VAT for winding up his father's estate. After a six-month battle, Woolwich finally agreed to stand down and a firm of brokers called Final Duties did the work for just £3,250. He said: ‘I feel outraged the bank caused such distress at a time of grief.’
Fixed, transparent costs may not be in the banks’ interests, but would be fairer for consumers. Dominic Lindley, Which? Principal Policy Advisor, said: ‘Fairer fees would reflect the work involved, rather than the estate’s value. We certainly feel they should relinquish their role as executor when asked.’
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