Probate Plans Would Hit Bereaved Families

Government plans to introduce massive hikes in charges payable before probate is granted for larger estates will place further strain on bereaved families, a solicitor has warned.

Probate is a legal document enabling the executor of a Will to share out property and belongings according to the deceased’s wishes.

Currently, those applying for probate for estates worth over £5,000 pay a flat fee of £155 if using a solicitor or £215 in other cases. Now, ministers plan to introduce a new banded system that rises according to the estate’s value.

They want to scrap charges altogether for estates less than £50,000, saying this would mean the majority of estates would pay nothing at all.

But higher values estates would be charged between £300 and a maximum of £20,000, representing enormous rises in percentage terms.

“These proposals represent another huge increase in Probate fees, as only two years ago the flat fee was increased from £45 to £155,” said Kerry Brundall, a Wills and Probate specialist at Macks Solicitors.

110314Macks_135“If implemented, the new fees will place further strain on bereaved families, unless banks and other financial institutions are willing to release funds in advance.

“Indeed, for medium to large estates, the cost of the probate fee will effectively become a second inheritance tax charge.”

The government has already announced £700m spending on modernising the courts and judicial system, including improved facilities, better use of technology and less red tape.

However, it also wants to reduce the amount by which the taxpayer subsidises Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS), which is currently more than £1bn a year. It believes the changes would bring in an extra £250m every year.

Justice Minister Shailesh Vara said: “This is a bold and radical plan for justice and court reform that will deliver a system that is fit for the modern age.”

The government will consult on the proposals between now and April.


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