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Why are there so many costs taken out of my aunts money?(14 Posts)
My aunt died last year. I didn't find out until I sent a Christmas card that was returned by her solicitors.
I also had no idea that I was a beneficiary, she had no children. The solicitors were appointed as the executors. Everything was to be split between 3 of us.
I have received the final amount today along with a list of what all the other costs were and I have to check it and sign a form to return to them. I understand the solicitors fee (which is over 10k, is that normal! Seems a huge amount), funeral etc but there is a huge list of costs, including things like chiropody, opticians, home insurance renewal (), a barber, over 1K for cleaning services as well as a home cleaning services (which I am assuming was a regular cleaner that she had?) nearly 6k for "costs/disbursements to reference xxxxx" no idea what this reference is, its just a number, a large final water bill, and large final gas bill and many many other things. In total it adds up to over 20k.
I don't understand why things like opticians need paying and why home insurance was renewed. Part of me wonders if the solicitors don't really care about the money as they get their bill anyway so they just pay out whatever else. I know the house was up for sale for quite a bit more than what it sold for, I think they just took the first offer.
Is this right? I have never dealt with anything like this before so I have no idea. I know some bills need to be settled when you die but the water bill is like a whole years worth and the gas is months and months worth, if not a year.
Did she leave a will and do you know the approximate value of the estate?
The legal fees seem high but remember the bills are likely to be debts that were outstanding. If your aunt hadn't paid her gas bill for some time this would make sense. And the house needed to be insured in case it burned down.
I am not a solicitor but I have been an executor.
Some costs like renewing home insurance would be valid as you still should insure a property even if it is vacant.
Some utilities are stopped but some like gas and electricity would need to be paid depending on whether they were kept on whilst the house was sold.
There are other expenses due to applying for probate, putting in advertisements for creditors etc so again these would be valid.
However for others such as opticians, barbers I would query but I guess if this was an outstanding debt then it would seem valid.
Really without going through the accounts it is hard to say so I would ask for a meeting or phone call to query the details which you have every right to do.
I have the total value of the estate and in her will everything was left between 4 of us (one of them is deceased) so everything between 3.
What about things like barbers etc? That seems odd.
Is there any possibility your aunt used any services at the barbers and this was simply an outstanding debt? I would mark down everything which you can't understand on the accounts and then ask them to explain it.
As an executor they have a legal responsibility to undertake the handling of the estate correctly so don't worry about asking them to explain some of the costs to you.
those sound like bills she had run up. If for example she was housebound she might have had home visits from hairdresser and chiropodist.
£1k for cleaning services sounds a lot, it is possible that she was not able to keep the house in a hygenic state, or may perhaps have died at home.
When a solicitor is nominated as executor, they are free to do pretty well whatever they want within legal limits, as nobody is their boss. Often they do Wills for people and offer or suggest themselves as Executor. IMO it is very much better to ask a trusted, younger relation or two if they are willing to act. They can then engage a solicitor, if they want, who they can sack, if they want, and can do some of the labour-intensive work themselves, especially if they are beneficiaries.
You say "6k for "costs/disbursements to reference xxxxx" no idea what this reference is" so ask.
I agree with Piglet, once you get your head round the process it's quite easy to sort out an estate without the cost of a solicitor unless there is a complicated will or someone contests the contents.
Unfortunately it too late now as everything has been done but to put your mind at rest give them a quick call to ask them for more details about the bills.
Have they sent you copies of the invoices themselves or just a list of expenses? I would definitely want every invoice backing up their listing before accepting it.
OP you mentioned 6k for "costs/disbursements", you haven't mentioned whether the costs for the sale of the house are listed separately. Could these be related to the sale such as conveyancing and estate agents fees etc?
Impossible to say without more information. The disbursements all sound plausible in themselves, but that doesn't mean they were. 10k could be a lot for solicitors fees or a total steal, depending on what they did. It's also possible that your aunt chose to appoint someone relatively expensive to administer the estate, which was her call.
TBH a £10k solicitor bill is only 40 hours at £250 per hour and that is not a very high rate for a solicitor.
The solicitor should have original invoices and receipts for all the other disbursements but they too sound like bills that were outstanding as long as the amounts claimed were not actually fraudulent in themselves and were for real services rendered.
The £1k cleaning bill sounds high unless it is for carpet cleaning in a large house and a lot of other specialist cleaning.
The solicitors should be able to provide a breakdown of their costs.
The barbers etc sound to me like debts. If she had a lot of unpaid bills and therefore, there was a lot for the solicitors to do, that would, at least in part, explain the high fees.
Well I'm a probate lawyer and I have to say that depending on the size of the estate the costs sound pretty reasonable to me.
The house would have to be insured and maintained after your aunt's death until it was sold, that means keeping the heating on over the winter months to prevent damp etc. Imagine if the house had burnt down, without insurance the executors would be personally liable. Things like water rates will continue to be paid - water is required for the heating system. Most insurance policies for empty properties require that the property is checked every 14 days so the executors will have had to attend to this and charge accordingly for their time and travel costs.
Most people who die will have a few unpaid bills, just ask to see copy invoices for anything you are unsure of like the chiropody.
Disbursements will include things like professional valuation fees (for the property), the cost of the probate application, travel costs and the estate agents fee for the house sale.
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