Legacies and bank transfer fees

I wonder if anyone can shed some light on their firm’s practice about legacies and bank transfer fees. We tend to ask the legatee how they would like to be paid; cheque in the post, collect a cheque or bank transfer. If they elect a bank transfer, we make it clear that we will deduct the bank transfer fees from their legacy.

Recently, I have had an executor of an estate get quite upset about that and they have asked that any bank transfer fees for the legatee payments are paid from residue. Our residuary beneficiaries are a number of charities.

There are approximately 30 legatees so the overall cost of the bank transfer fees will probably be noticeable if it comes from residue. I cannot find any authority about who should bear the bank transfer fees or whether they should be classed as administration expenses. The will also does not address it.

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!

Emma Davies
masefield solicitors LLP

I assume these are large legacies, because BACS/faster payments are made free of charge by most banks up to a limit of £20,000 or £25,000. Or are we talking here about the firm’s charges for a transfer?

I don’t know of any authority on the point, except that the costs of delivery of a specific bequest are borne by the legatee in the absence of a direction in the will to the contrary. I don’t see that this should be extended by analogy to the payment of legacies.

Legacies of a fixed sum are by definition paid free of any costs of administration so I think that the onus is on the firm to justify the deduction. But I would say that if the legatee is offered a choice between payment of the full sum by cheque and opts for payment by bank transfer subject to a charge, he can be asked to pay the cost of the more convenient service. But if payment by cheque is impractical e.g. if the payee is resident abroad and doesn’t have a sterling account then I think the estate has to bear the cost of the payment.

Tim Gibbons

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I’m sorry to disagree with Tim Gibbons, but my understanding is that the
cost of delivery of legacies, whether general or specific, is an
administration expense payable out of residue (Sharpe v. Lush ?). If a
legacy is to be paid in a currency other than as specified in the will,
the exchange costs are payable by the beneficiary but not, generally,

The fact that a beneficiary might be offered the option of electing for
payment by cheque or bank transfer is, I believe, immaterial to the

Paul Saunders

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Thank you for your response, Tim. Most of the legacies are large but there are some smaller ones.

I think I am going to put the question to the charity beneficiaries as I feel it can be argued either way whether the bank transfer fees should be deducted from the legacy or as administration costs.

Emma Davies
masefield solicitors LLP


To my mind, all testamentary expenses are borne by the estate. Not having seen the Will, I don’t know if the relevant clause was included in it. Surely the beneficiaries would accept this to be the case.
Otherwise, is it not covered in your T&C or the contract when you agreed to sort the probate out?
The beneficiaries shouldn’t have to pay and neither should your company.
Please let us know if you discover something different.

Hazel Evans
Excelsior Legal & Estate Services (UK) Ltd