Which? calls for fairer probate feesBanks' charges appear disproportionate

25 February 2010

Which? wants banks to play fair with executor fees.

Pen and paper signing documents marked with an X

You may be eligible for a business loan

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.’ 

Which? says

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.’ 

pound coins

Which? Money when you need it

You can follow @WhichMoney on Twitter to keep up-to-date with our Best Rates and Recommended Provider product and service reviews.

Sign up for the latest money news, best rates and recommended providers in your newsletter every Friday.

Or for money-saving tips, and news of how what's going on in the world of finance affects you, join Melanie Dowding and James Daley for the Which? Money weekly money podcast

For daily consumer news, subscribe to the Which? news RSS feed here. And to find out how we work for you on money issues, visit our personal finance campaigns pages.