Possible new probate structure could hit families hard

Sorting out the estate of a loved one can be daunting.  Due to proposed changes, new probate fees look to add to that pressure by eating into an estate’s value.

In most cases where there is land or shares a Grant of Probate will be required.  This is an authority from the court that allows the financial affairs of the person who has died to be concluded.  At the moment there is a flat fee of £155 for the Grant of Probate, reflecting the fact that the work required by the Registry is the same whatever the value of the estate. 

What are the proposed changes to probate fees?

Proposed changes from the Government, which are currently on hold until after the general election, potentially impose a huge fee increase.  The Government claims that the changes would raise some estates above the fee threshold.  At present, estates worth less than £5,000 pay nothing.  Potentially, if this plan comes into force, that threshold would rise to £50,000, but it isn’t difficult to see how many estates – and almost all that include property – will be valued above that.

The changes see the introduction of a banded fee structure.  At the top end, an estate in excess of £2M will pay a £20,000 fee instead of the existing £155 - a whopping 12,900% increase!  Of course most will not leave estates of £2M, but given the rising costs of houses in our region, an estate valued at £300,000 or even £500,000, is not uncommon; under the new fee structure such estates would pay £1,000 and £4,000 respectively.

Recently lost a loved one? What you should do next

If you have recently lost a loved one our advice is not to delay the administration of their estate.  Naturally, dealing with legal matters is difficult when you are grieving.  However, putting things off could mean that what your loved one has worked so hard to achieve is reduced significantly because of this stealth tax.

At Birkett Long our team includes members of Solicitors for the Elderly and the Society of Estate Practitioners (STEP), which means we are committed to treating clients with dignity, respect and sensitivity, avoiding unnecessary legal terminology.

If you would like to talk to an expert about probate then please do not hesitate to contact Martin King a specialist based in our Basildon office on 01268 244151 or email martin.king@birkettlong.co.uk.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.