Q: What are the current fees, and why is the Lord Chancellor seeking to introduce a new sliding scale of probate fees?
A: The current fees are £255 for personal applications and £155 for Solicitor applications. The Lord Chancellor is seeking to generate revenue to improve the Courts and Tribunal Services in order to provide a “world class courts service”. The revenue generated will amount to about £155 million per year.
Q: What will the new sliding scale of fees look like?
A: The fees will be linked to the gross value of an estate. Estates valued at £50,000 and below will be exempt, for estates worth between £50,000 and £300,000 the charge is £250 which incrementally increases to a maximum of £6,000 for estates valued at £2 million or over. Commentators are describing these new fees as a “stealth tax” and double taxation when estates are already bearing a 40% inheritance tax charge.
Q: How will executors raise the monies to pay the court fees?
A: We are told that banking institutions will allow access to the Deceased’s accounts as they currently do for funeral expenses and inheritance tax. The concern is that there may not be sufficient monies available to meet all of these expenses raising the issue that the executors may well find themselves having to personally fund the probate fee or take out a loan, the latter causing additional fees and interest being detrimental on the estate.
Q: Is it prudent to plan for the payment of these fees in my lifetime and what could my options be?
- Potentially we could see families considering life policies written in trust to cover probate fees, this is something that is common practice to either cover or assist with the burden of payment of inheritance tax. This arrangement will involve payment of premiums which will be an added expense for families.
- We may see arrangements being put in place for monies to be put by in bank accounts held in the joint names of family members for ease of access.
- An option that some married couples may explore is the simplification of their estates such as unravelling property ownership to reduce the value of their estates. This may seriously impact on tax planned Wills and the protection under those Wills for spouses with children from different relationships.