From April probate fees are set to change from being a fixed fee to a sliding scale. Although the date is still yet to be set, the narrow vote was passed in February and will mean a change that many people will be unaware of.
Currently, probate fees are paid upfront and are fixed at £155 for solicitors and £125 for individuals, an amount that generally does not cause issues in raising.
However in April this is set to change, to what some are calling a ‘death tax by stealth’. The fees will be set on a sliding scale according to the value of a persons estate.
The Probate tiered fee system is expected to see the following changes:
|Value of estate (before inheritance tax)
|Up to £50,000
|£50,000 - £300,000
|£300,000 - £500,000
|£500,000 - £1 million
|£1 million - £1.6 million
|£1.6 million - £2 million
|Over £2 million
The fees are still to be paid upfront (currently) yet how some people will fund this is yet to be clarified, although Lucy Frazer MP has confirmed that, where banks or building societies refuse to release money to pay the fee, the probate service is willing to write to them to confirm the money is needed to pay the fees. There will also be other possible options such as loans (although there are no current specific loans for probate) or limited grant of probate.
The Law Society have staunchly opposed the fee changes claiming that the amended fees are a ‘misuse of the Lord Chancellor’s fee-levying power.’
Furthermore, it has been that the increase ‘is disproportionate’ and that ‘It is unfair to expect the bereaved to fund or subsidise other parts of the court and tribunal service, particularly in circumstances where they have no other options but to use the probate service. This is an introduction of a new tax on death by stealth.”
Period of uncertainty
For those dealing with Probate and the public there will no doubt be a period of uncertainty over new payment guidelines, and an understanding of the new changes. There may be a short notice period of changes to fees and care should be taken when advising clients.
This change to fees combined with the new online digital application process for people who apply personally for Probate, rather than using a specialist, means there needs to be complete clarity for as to what is expected in fees and when. With no specialist involved in this process then there is the likelihood of some confusion for a period of time
BTWC and our legal partners are here to help support you and your clients in any queries raised regarding the matter of Probate fees and any other queries regarding Probate. Our view is that ultimately is saves time and hassle (at an often distressing time) by using experienced resource and support in a possibly complex scenario. Call us on 01522 500823 for support on any queries.