09 March, 2017
Despite strong opposition from the legal profession, including bodies such as Solicitors for the Elderly and STEP, the government has announced that from May probate fees will increase significantly.
Currently, when making an application for a Grant of Probate via a solicitor, the Probate Registry charge a fixed fee of £155 regardless of the value of the estate or £215 if applied for without a solicitor. In May, this system is due to dramatically change and will be replaced by a sliding scale based on the value of an estate. This fee is of course in addition to any inheritance tax that an estate may be liable to pay.
So what are the new fees?
Estates valued under £50,000 will not have to pay a fee. Estates valued between £50,000 and £300,000 will have to pay £300, estates valued between £300,000 and £500,000 will have to pay £1,000 and estates valued between £500,000 and £1million will have to pay £4,000.
With the forthcoming introduction of the new 'property nil rate band' in April which will see many estates become exempt from inheritance tax completely, it appears as though the government is trying to recoup some of this lost revenue with the introduction of these new fees, which are seen by many as an additional death duty. This is despite a lengthy and in depth consultation process which resulted in an overwhelming opposition to the plans.
Claire Davis, Director, SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly) has commented:
"SFE is extremely disappointed to see that the consensus to reject the proposed probate fees has been ignored. To burden larger estates with a significantly larger fee is an unfair form of taxation. For people in this situation, their property is often their primary asset, and they have little cash to pay for higher probate fees, on top of other necessities such as IHT or the use of a solicitor."
These proposed changes along with the introduction of the property nil rate band in April bring further complexity to estate planning and the probate process. Many people will now be seeking legal advice not only regarding reducing the value of their estate for inheritance tax purposes but also to save on probate fees.
If you would like any further advice about wills, care fee planning or probate, please do not hesitate to contact Jennifer Wilkinson in our Wills, Probate, Tax and Trusts department or alternatively call Freephone 0800 975 2643 or send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.