Do I now need to plan for my probate fees?
Currently, the cost of obtaining probate is relatively nominal – it costs the deceased’s estate £155 for a professional application or £215 for a personal application – but now probate fees are planned to rocket to eye watering levels.
This increase was due to come in to effect in the summer of 2017 but was put on the back burner following lots of objections. However, it was announced recently by the Ministry of Justice that the planned changes are likely to take effect in April but, as of yet, no official date has been set as the government say there has not yet been time for the motion to be brought before parliament.
The new ‘banded fee’ structure will see larger estates, of more than £2m, pay a court fee of £6,000 in order to obtain the necessary grant of representation. This is the document that evidences a personal representative’s legal right to access estate assets. It has been argued by many members of the profession, and members of public, that this a “death tax” and given the sharp increase, it is quite reasonable to agree with this statement – especially given that many estates cannot be administered (in accordance with a loved one’s wishes) without the grant.
However, it is not all bad news. At the moment, it is only estates worth more than £5,000 that are required to pay the court fee in order to obtain a grant. But, as a result of the planned changes, estates worth less than £50,000 will not be charged a court fee at all. Furthermore, the banded fee increase is relatively modest for estates up to £500,000. It is only when estates are worth between £500,000 and £1m (and upwards) that there is a significant hit of fees.
The estate practitioners here at Trethowans are working tirelessly to do what they can to submit applications before the increase is introduced and this consequently is putting more pressure on the probate registrars who have seen a noticeable increase in applications in recent months. As an additional consequence, the issuing of the grants themselves is taking longer and this, therefore, needs to be taken into account by personal representative who will be answerable to beneficiaries raising the question of how long will the administration process take. Members of the Trethowans private client Team are doing their upmost to keep their clients updated as to the position surroundings the Court fees but it is likely that notice of the immediate increase will be short.
Therefore if you are a personal representative who is attempting an application for a grant, you would be well advised to move quickly, and where appropriate, seek legal assistance.