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With probate fee increases looming – now is the time for action

With a new tier of probate fees set to be introduced next month (April 2019), it is worth taking stock now to see what you can do to potentially limit the amount you may have to pay.

The House of Lords has voted the government's proposal through, albeit reluctantly, with the House of Commons set to scrutinise the relevant legislation imminently.

So, if you are already in the process of administering an estate, speed is of the essence as any probate applications submitted prior to April, should only incur the current fees.

And if you've been meaning to get round to dealing with the probate of a loved one, now is definitely the time for action, particularly as probate applications can sometimes take months to complete.

As always, it is important to take legal advice if you expect your estate to be affected - and if it is in the range of £50,000 to £2 million, which most are, the more your estate will pay in probate fees and often on top of 40 per cent inheritance tax too.

Controversy

The probate fee increases have been slammed by many, including Wards Solicitors, as an iniquitous way of introducing a stealth death tax meaning that some families will pay almost £6,000 more than under current rules.

At the moment, families pay a flat probate fee of £215, or £155 if they apply through a solicitor, on estates worth more than £5,000.

The new legislation will raise the estate value threshold from £5,000 to £50,000, which means, according to the Ministry of Justice, that an extra 25,000 estates a year won't pay any probate fees at all.

However, a new sliding scale of charges on estates worth more than £50,000 will see the fees increase depending on how much the estate is worth:

  • Estates worth from £50,000 to £300,000 - fee rises by £35 to £250;
  • Estates worth from £300,000 to £500,000 - fee rises by £535 to £750;
  • Estates worth from £500,000 to £1 million - fee rises by £2,285 to £2,500;
  • Estates worth from £1 million to £1.6 million - fee rises by £3,785 to £4,000;
  • Estates worth from £1.6 million to £2 million - fee rises by £4,785 to £5,000;
  • Estates worth more than £2 million - fee rises by £5,785 to £6,000.

The majority of Wards Solicitors' probate team lawyers are either student or full members of SFE. Full members hold the Certificate in Older Client Care in Practice Award. As well as being an SFE director, Jenny Pierce is the regional coordinator for Bristol and Bath and Ruth Coles is Somerset's regional coordinator. For further help and guidance, please contact Wards Solicitors' Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team.