A universally unpopular proposal by the Government to increase fees charged to administer probate has been dropped.
The Justice Secretary Robert Buckland revealed that he had abandoned the plans that would have replaced the current flat fee system as he deemed they were not 'fair and proportionate'.
The proposed changes had been viewed as effectively a tax by the back door for anyone leaving more than £50,000, as Margaret Rowe, a Partner in our Wills, Probate and Lifetime planning team, explains:
The proposals have been in the offing for several years so a decision on whether or not to proceed with the changes has been well overdue.
The Government had suggested swapping the existing flat fee of either £155 or £215 for a fee proportionate to the size of the estate that would have increased in relation to the value of the assets.
This would have meant a sliding scale of charges that varied from £250 for estates worth between £50,000 and £300,000 up to £6,000 for estates valued at more than £2 million.
For many families, a house can be the sole asset in a will and that would have put a strain on families to pay the court fees if there were no liquid assets.
It is great news that the Government has decided not to proceed with the sliding scale of fees but says it is considering ‘small adjustments’ in the current charges.
But any change is worrying. If people have to pay increased charges, they may be less inclined to use a solicitor to guide them through probate, which is a serious business and must be done properly.
This could lead to errors in the administration of an estate, which could end up costing them more in the long run. We can only hope the Government will take the feedback from professionals into account when they consider their new proposals.
Margaret specialises in all aspects of wills and probate work and elderly client matters, including estate planning and succession and advises on the full range of private client matters from Court of Protection work to inheritance tax planning. She is a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and Solicitors For the Elderly (SFE). Margaret can be contacted on the details below.