A stealth tax on bereaved families

family law

This week the government announced that from May 2017 they will be reforming their fees for all Grant of Probate applications despite receiving a majority opposition to their proposals.

Indeed many have criticised their plans as a ‘stealth tax on bereaved families’ and it is interesting to note that whilst there has been much focus on the introduction of the new ‘Residence Nil-Rate Band’ in April 2017 there has been less focus on the introduction of these new fees, which in some cases are a rise of over 9,000 per cent.  The government seems to be giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

The current flat fee of £215 for a personal application (£155 for applications made through a solicitor) will be replaced with a banded structure with the fees increasing in line with the value of the estate.  This fee may be as much as £20,000 if your estate is above £2million pounds.  But it is not just the wealthy who are set to lose out.

The table below sets out the new fee structure:

family law

The proposed fees do not bear any relation to the work actually done by the Probate Registry which is more or less the same regardless of the value of the deceased’s estate.

What is now likely to happen will be an increase in the volume of applications made to the Probate Registry in March and April as grieving families rush to make an application before the new fees come into effect.  Many will not be ready to apply or have all the information to hand and this may lead to delays in issuing the grants.

We also expect there will be many people now changing their succession plans as a result of these fee increases who do not properly take in to account their own complex family situations or inheritance tax position.  This will inevitably be at a cost to the individual but may also lead to a rise in disputes and litigation following death placing a further strain on the court system.

Photo by tehusagent via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Wendy Scarr

Wendy is a Private Client Solicitor based at the firm's Harrogate Office.

She has over 12 years of experience dealing with complex cases including taxable estates and probate work.

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