Changes to the procedure for applying for a grant of probate in England & Wales came into force at the very end of 2018 as part of the Government’s ongoing project to modernise the probate process. As part of the Non-Contentious Probate (Amendment) Rules 2018 it is no longer necessary for executors or administrators to swear the oath in front of a solicitor. Instead a new statement of truth has been introduced which the executors simply sign. In doing so they have to sign to confirm that they “…understand that criminal proceedings for fraud may be brought against me if I am found to have been deliberately untruthful or dishonest”.
For people in the process of applying for the grant where an oath has been prepared/sworn, do not worry, District Probate Registries will continue to accept oaths for the foreseeable future.
It is still prudent to seek professional advice in the administration of an estate, for example to ensure that any available inheritance tax exemption or relief is claimed to ensure the estate does not pay too much inheritance tax as HMRC will not inform you that you have failed to claim an exemption or relief.
A rise in probate fees
Following on from the above, you may well want to swear about the pending rise in probate fees! These were due to be introduced in 2017 but were shelved in the run up to the snap general election that year. Many of us in the legal profession hoped they would not be revived but they are set to be introduced in April 2019. The intention is to replace the fixed fees for probate applications (£155 for applications made by a solicitor and £215 for applications made by individuals) with a sliding scale. Estates up to £50,000 will pay no fee, estates from £50,001-£300,000 will pay £250, estates from £300,001-£500,000 will pay £750 and estates £500,001 – £1m will pay a £2,500. Estates from £1m – £1.6m will pay £4,000, estates from £1.6-£2m will pay £5,000 and estates over £2m will pay £6000.
It has been suggested that 80% of estates will fall within the £300,001 – £500,000 or lower brackets with estates in this bracket paying a much higher fee of £750 instead of £155. It will be a further cost to estates which may already have been impacted by care fees during the deceased’s lifetime and again by inheritance tax on death. It also raises the issue of how asset rich but cash poor estates are to fund the court fee. The wording of the announcement for the new fee structure does seem to suggest that probate fees are going to be used to fund the running of the courts and tribunal service which does seem unfair on estates.
Please contact Beacon Wealth Legal if you would like more information on the subjects in this article or to arrange an appointment.