They all seem to be utterly incompetent at times...
When my FiL died, Barclays were so utterly incompetent that we ended up having to escalate to the Chief Exec's office to get anywhere. It then took five visits to the branch to deal with the safe deposit box he had there - then, two weeks after we'd finally removed it, the branch phoned to ask if we knew it existed, and what did we want to do with it?
When my MiL was in a care home, Santander suddenly decided that they'd never ever seen the PoA that they'd been happily working with for several years. When she died, Barclays were suddenly very easy to deal with!
Interesting - I guess it's pot luck as to the individual you find yourself dealing with. My experience was that the banks and big utilities were all fine - their bereavement departments all did their jobs. My really bad experience was with Fidelity (Fund Managers) who completely screwed things up - there was some kid who didn't know basic rules for ISAs as they then applied, which ultimately delayed my Probate application. I complained, initially without effect, and then more forcefully, which resulted in an immediate resolution and compensation.
Going back to the original question, my thoughts - having been an executor not long ago - are that I would (almost) never name a solicitor as executor in a will. They can and will gouge extortionate fees, quite unnecessarily. If you have friends/family that you can name, then as you say they can seek professional help as and when they want.
The vast majority of estates are not hard to get Probate on. Heck, you can do the whole thing online. The hard stuff is, as some have said, managing/valuing/disposing of chattels, and no solicitor is going to get their hands dirty on that - they will just subcontract it, add their own supervision fee, and then VAT on top of the whole bundle. Much better, if someone is available, for someone who cares to choose their own contractors to help as required, which can of course include (Fixed Price!) legal support if something tricky comes up.
For the estate I handled recently, I did all the paperwork myself - it wasn't a complicated estate - and hired contractors for various purposes. I bought a small amount of (fixed price) legal advice to check what I was doing, and if things had got tricky I would have just gone back to the same place and got more help.
That said, it was quite a bit of effort, but I was one of the beneficiaries so it was worth my while. I would strongly favour making one or more of the beneficiaries into executors, where this is practical, and then they can make their own choices about how they want to spend their time/money.
Admittedly this might be problematic if there could be trust or competence issues between beneficiaries! So if for example all the main beneficiaries are not trustworthy or competent, I can imagine a scenario where a solicitor might be the only choice.
One other thought: if the will was drawn up 20 years ago, are there now other younger relatives available who are more likely to outlive you?
Some interesting replies, and the above is the most relevant to my case. I note the confirmation of my suspicions in the first paragraph. Reference the last sentence, a cousin in the 40s has agreed to become an executor. She's academically brilliant and a respected criminologist, but not financially savvy.
One feature of that 20-year-old will was that it contains a lot of general legal guff but all the interesting stuff - bequests, that is - is in a Letter of Wishes, which I've been able to tweak myself (with witnesses to my signature).
Just remembered that this year Virgin seem surprised that money in an ISA can remain in an ISA wrapper when transferring from a husband's estate to a wife.
Lloyd's... no, all too depressing at the time.
I thought you had to cash in, but you get an extra ISA allowance to cover what they had so you can re-invest it in your own ISA. But I guess it amounts to the same thing really, probably just done in the background if you ask for it to be transferred.
Edit: I recall reading about this sometime ago, so not necessarily Gospel!
You’re both right. It’s an inherited allowance isa. You provide proof to a provider of the total isa balance at time of death and the provider opens an isa (in the name of the spouse) with that total as a maximum amount of money allowed to be paid in. After that, it doesn’t really matter where the money comes from, you just credit it as you have it until you reach that maximum. Then it’s just like a regular isa.
I've had a further cynical thought. I gather that a Personal Representative should "initially check the previous three years’ bank statements which will be a good indication of the gifting history of the deceased. If there are any withdrawals or transfers which seem unusual in the amount or regularity, then a review of the bank statements for the full seven years is advisable."
I've just checked through my statements since late 2013 and have had to scratch my head about some of the transactions. Early on I was still writing cheques for large amounts, but there's no indication as to who the payees were. A particularly diligent Personal Representative might decide to spend a great deal of time trying to make sense of the statements.
And, yes, solicitors may well pitch it as a great thing... because they like the lucrative revenue.
Agree, from my personal experience, bloody terrible idea. Depending on the solicitor -- the future behaviour/reliability of which you can't be certain, so don't do it.
Let the executors (non-solicitor) sort out a solicitor of their choice when they need it.
Expanding on why :-
My father's will was a simple one, with a "visiting wills" person, which named me as sole beneficiary/executor, with the original and copy will in his possession.
Some years later, he was "advised" by another local solicitor that the wording in it was some way incomplete/deficient, and persuaded to have it remade. Basically, it looked exactly the same (me as sole beneficiary) but with them added as joint executor. And the original kept in safe storage by them.
This means that I could do nothing without their agreement/signoff -- that's how "joint" works, and had no access to the original will without their providing it. A step backwards ... however that should be a formality.
Except when it came time to need their services :-
1) They didn't answer the phone on the number I had for them. Google search not useful, other than other people looking for them. 2) A search of the Solicitor's Regulation Authority showed that they no longer existed (Original company merged with another, renamed, and then ceased business) 2a) A surprise to me, as they'd not sent any followup letter to say any of that had happened ... not very responsible. 3) The "record keeper" was shown as a person now working at another solicitor elsewhere, contact details given. 4) That solicitor/firm had never heard of the person named, confirmed they'd never worked there, and that they were not even a solicitor. 5) Back to SRA -- they maintain that their information is correct, and can't help further, even alerted to the fact the record keeper's details are wrong.
I then found a wills/probate specialist to deal with this. With the assistance of a couple of local tip-offs into the erstwhile solicitor (it's a small world, especially when you have a ... reputation) who had spent 7 years moving around other solicitors after running the company into the ground ... it got resolved. It took months. It was frustrating.
The solicitor (when found) wanted to take all the work done so far by my solicitors to complete the task. Given the disappearing act, the lack of records keeping, the inability to answer emails, the multiple attempts to delay the process, and a string of online reviews regarding this person from numerous places he's worked in his "wilderness years", and the fact that when found they are back trading under the same company name as they used to use IN THE SAME CITY, and yet the SRA cannot find any trace of them (nor does their website work, nor do they appear in the phonebook) -- I flat refused.
It appears to be just one man in a dungeon somewhere cashing in on milking people that he's holding "wills to ransom" for ... referring to himself as "we" and "partners" (there aren't any).
In the end, they needed to be PAID OFF to release the original will and to renounce as executor -- "in respect of all the work we have done so far". That's a joke. And the SRA are as much use as the FCA ...
The general legal opinion (and also lay opinion from people I've spoken to about this) is that had my father died intestate, things would have been a lot simpler. I know that goes against the advice of "you must get a will! You must do it properly!" but -- frankly -- I have good reason to disagree!