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Probate Fees Rise = Middle Classes Screwed

Posted: Friday, 4 January 2019 @ 13:43

The probate fees are changing from May 2017.

Here are some brief questions and answers which include our thoughts on the changes.According to government spin on the issue, the changes are part of a drive to reduce the cost of running courts and tribunals, and raise £250 million for the Exchequer.

What are the increases going to be?

The proposed probate application fees are as follows:

£300 for estates worth more than £50,000 and up to £300,000 

£1,000 for estates worth more than £300,000 and up to £500,000 

£4,000 for estates worth more than £500,000 and up to £1 million 

£8,000 for estates worth more than £1m and up to £1.6 million 

£12,000 for estates worth more than £1.6m and up to £2 million 

£20,000 for estates worth more than £2 million

How is this different to the status quo?

The current position is that if you apply for probate you have a flat fee of £215 or £155 if you use a solicitor.

When is Probate Required?

If you need to sell property, if you have bank account with £5 to £30,000 within it (Banks operate different policies) and some other institutions require probate to transfer assets.   It is necessary before the assets which require probate can be distributed. If you do not get probate assets can be locked.

What does Human Law think about it?

Shambolic at three levels.

First, the “consultation process” set in motion prior to implementation was neatly ignored with out of the 829 responses, 695 disagreed with the proposals, 63 agreed and 71 neither disagreed or agreed.  

People do not bother to engage government consultations as people think the government will not listen within a consultation process and thus it has proven to pass. The people are rightly cynical. Why bother to consult if you have made up your mind?

Second, the government which is not as financially component as it likes to portray itself is making another go at grabbing money from those seeking justice or trying to deal with bereavement. In the past, few years you have seen there have been increases in civil court fees, creation of Employment Tribunal fees and a reduction in criminal legal aid. Thus, the government undermines further the integrity of the justice system which we are sorry should not be up for grabs even if the government is screwed financially.

Third, with respect to outcomes there will be two impacts.

1)  The super wealthy will be more inclined to instruct lawyers and accountants to avoid probate fees by creating will trusts which do not need to go to probate when someone passes away. Therefore, the government may raise less money than it thinks from the probate fees reform as the super-rich are more motivated to do fees avoidance.   

2)    More people will not just do probate and/or just have a go without legal help. This will lead to estates which will not be distributed, done incompetently, and encourage disputes.

The people who will suffer the most will be the middle classes who try to do things correctly. They will comply but pay a hefty price for a pretty short service provided by the Courts. The Court staff are unlikely to see benefits as well despite the increased revenue.