Proposed Probate Fee Increases

On 5 November 2018 the government announced a proposal to increase probate fees. While it may not sound like something which would affect you, applying for probate is a common occurrence following the death of a loved one.

But what is a grant of probate, and what are the new proposals?

Grant of Probate

Following the death of a loved one, family and friends often assume that they will be able to handle the estate (property, money and belongings) of those who have passed. However, this is not always the case.

If a loved one died leaving a Will then only those who are named as executors are allowed to handle the deceased’s estate. And while many financial institutions such as banks and building societies may be willing to assist executors on an informal basis, often if the value of the assets is too great the institution will require a Grant of Probate.

It is often viewed that applying for probate is a bad thing, signalling that something has gone wrong. This is not the case. A Grant of Probate is merely a legal document which helps identify that the executors named have the authority to deal with the estate, and are the executors named in the Will of the deceased.

You may ask why a copy of the Will showing the executors named is not enough to allow the executors to act. The reason is that the deceased may have made a number of Wills appointing various executors. By applying for the Grant of Probate the executors are proving the Will is the deceased’s last Will, and the executors are the ones who have the authority to act.

It is often viewed that a Grant of Probate is the key to unlocking the estate.

Proposal

At the date of this article, the fee’s for applying for a Grant of Probate are fixed at either £215 if applying as an individual or £155 if applying through a solicitor.

Once the proposals are approved, the fee for applying for probate will vary depending on the value of the whole of the deceased’s estate.

The proposed fees are shown as follows:

Value of Estate (before inheritance tax)

Proposed Fee

Up to £50,000 or exempt from requiring a grant of probate

£0

£50,000 - £300,000

£250

£300,000 - £500,000

£750

£500,000 - £1m

£2,500

£1m - £1.6m

£4,000

£1.6m - £2m

£5,000

Above £2m

£6,000

 

What the Government says

In a written statement to Parliament, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Justice Lucy Frazer MP said:

"This new banded fee model represents a fair and more progressive way to pay for probate services compared to the current flat fee and reflects our commitment to protecting access to justice by ensuring we have a properly funded and resourced courts system.

"We are also confident these fees will never be unaffordable. The cost of the fee is recoverable from the estate and executors have several options to fund it. Moreover, the Lord Chancellor retains a power to remit a fee if he considers there are exceptional circumstances."

Practical effect of the proposal

While those estates which are not valued at more than £50,000 will be exempt from paying an application fee, the proposed fees are significantly higher than those which are currently being charged.

We also need to consider who will be paying. The fees will be deducted the from the deceased’s estate meaning the executors will not personally be paying for the application.

However, the less money which is in the estate the less those who are set to benefit will receive.

When will the proposal take effect?

The simple answer is, we do not know.

We can expect the new proposed fees to come into effect during 2019, and the new fees will effect all probate applications made after that date.

In order to benefit from the current flat fee the application must be made before the proposal is brought into effect.

How Lanyon Bowdler can help

At Lanyon Bowdler we understand that dealing with the passing of a loved one can be challenging and time consuming. Our dedicated private client department is always willing to assist in obtaining probate for executors.

Should you have any questions or queries, a member of our team will be able to assist.