A hike in probate fees may be on the cards from April
In February, the proposal to change the fees charged by the Probate Registry when applying for a Grant of Probate (or equivalent) to an estate when someone has died went before the Delegated Legislation Committee and were narrowly approved. The increased charges are likely to come into effect in April 2019 and will result in the majority of applications being subject to a higher fee than under the current charging structure.
Susan Lacey, Senior Partner and Head of the Private Client Department (pictured) said, ”Two years ago similar plans were drawn up and then shelved due to the general election but this issue has not gone away. Like many law firms we do not agree with this change and will be doing everything to speed up applications to avoid extra fees for clients. From April, people will need to be aware that they may incur fees up to £6,000 for larger estates whereas at the moment there is a flat fee of £155 for those going through a solicitor to apply for probate.”
Probate fees are payable to the court when the executors apply for formal authority to act in the administration of the estate. Until the application for a Grant of Probate or Letters of administration has been approved by the court, the executors are unable to bring in the assets of the estate in most cases. Banks will not release large funds held in bank accounts, shareholdings may not be able to be sold or transferred and no houses or commercial property can be sold until probate has been obtained. In such cases there are concerns that families will struggle to pay the probate fees before they can access the money locked in the deceased’s estate, as only payments for funeral expenses and Inheritance Tax would be released prior to the Grant of Probate being obtained.
As no funds can be distributed until the Grant has been issued, except for payment of funeral costs and inheritance tax, there are concerns that families will struggle to pay the probate fees before they can access the money locked in the deceased’s estate.
Those estates that comprise high value property, but are short on liquid assets, may find themselves paying high court fees without any expectation of cash to offset the cost. This could be the case where a husband or wife has died and the survivor needs a grant of probate to transfer the property into their sole name.
Susan added, ”Looking to the future, if you expect your estate is going to be affected then it’s worth getting some advice. There are only limited ways in which to tackle the amount of fee that will be due, but there are other ways in which you can ease the burden for your executors. We will keep a close eye on events over the coming weeks to see how all this will evolve and the impact it will have.”
This is a link to the Law Society Gazette giving further information.