Government Planning To Go Ahead With Huge Increase To Probate Fees
Lawyers are warning executors are at risk of claims being brought against them by beneficiaries of estates if they delay applying for probate after the fee hike originally planned for April, which will cost families thousands.
The government has given the green light for probate fees to increase, two years after deciding the proposed increase would be too punitive and putting executors at risk of claims from beneficiaries.
For the legislation to become law they need to pass a Statutory Instrument in Parliament which was set to be completed before 1st April but has been delayed due to Brexit taking up House of Commons time. However lawyers are warning that the delay may just be a matter of time rather than a permanent reprieve and is advising people to take appropriate action in advance of the changes.
The probate court fee is currently £155 and is planned to rise in April to £6,000 for estates over £2m – a 3870% increase. The new rules would mean estates under £50,000 are exempt from the fee, while estates above this will be subject to a sliding scale based on their value.
Tax specialists at leading national law firm Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth warn the fee hike will affect ordinary people whose house prices have skyrocketed in the past two decades but their property is their main significant asset – and will feel the pinch if they are to pay thousands more in fees, putting more pressure on executors to apply for the grant of probate now.
They also warn there will be a surge in applications for grant of probate made in the coming weeks, but some will be too late and may even rush the process to get ahead of the fee increase, opening them up to even more scrutiny and potential claims from beneficiaries.
Expert Opinion“There will almost definitely be a surge in probate applications because the fee increase is so big, executors should be careful about opening themselves up to claims by beneficiaries if they don’t act in a timely manner.
“Equally, executors can’t just apply for probate before the fee kicks in until all of the ducks are in a row when it comes to the estate, such as completing inheritance tax forms, making any necessary searches, and gathering and sending original documents to the Probate Registry - all of which takes precious time.
“If any of this is wrong it just creates more delays and can result in further claims, so executors must make sure no corners are cut to reach the ‘deadline’. Keeping beneficiaries in the loop at all times about potential delays and increase fees is vital.
“Our advice is not to delay and to get the grant of probate application in ahead of the fee hike if all of necessary information for the application to be successful is in place. If not, I’d recommend maintaining an open dialogue with the beneficiaries of the estate where possible. If expectations are managed and the work is completed at the cost of a higher fee, this is better than rushing and creating more problems down the line.” Helen Clarke - Partner