The proposed increase to probate fees has been a hot topic for our private client team since the start of 2019 and you are likely to have seen discussion about the proposals in the national press.
Despite threats that new fees would be introduced in April 2019, our team has welcomed the news earlier this month from Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland that the proposed reforms to fees is now not going ahead.
The proposed fee amendments had faced serious criticism from all aspects of the legal profession with The President of the Law Society, Simon Davis describing the proposals as a ‘tax on grief’. Mr Davis took particular issue with the principle that the bereaved would effectively be funding other parts of the Court and Tribunal Service. It appears that the government now agree with his concerns. The change in approach is a huge relief for all Executors and Administrators who will be making applications to the Probate Registry as for the foreseeable future the cost of an application will not change.
So, where do we stand now in light of the recent news and, what should you be doing if you are an Executor or Administrator who needs to administer an estate?
An application for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration is required on death when an estate has assets over a certain value, of a particular nature or in all circumstances where a property forms part of the estate and needs to be sold. The Grant itself is a certificate which confirms who is authorised to administer an estate.
The Grant application has an associated fee which is £215 for lay applicants or £155 for applications by Solicitors.
Whilst the probate fee structure is now not set to change, as a result of discussions around an increase to fees earlier in the year and coupled with a change to the Probate Registry software, Probate Registries across the country have faced an overwhelming amount of applications which has in turn led to significant delays in Grants being processed. In some cases it is taking over 3 months for a straightforward Grant to be issued.
In light of the current delays we are continuing to advise our clients to apply for a Grant in a timely manner and would encourage all Executors and Administrators to use a Solicitor to assist with an application to the Probate Registry. There are a number of advantages to using a professional which include:
1. An efficient, hassle free process;
2. A reduced probate fee; and
3. Ensuring that all available taxation reliefs and exemptions are applied to the estate.
Importantly, using a professional to apply for a Grant allows recently bereaved family members or friends who are acting as executors and administrators time to focus on the grieving process.