Increased Court Fees - The End of Inheritance Act Claims?
On Monday 9 March 2015, a new schedule of fees for issuing money claims came into effect in the courts of England and Wales. This has seen a drastic increase in the cost of issuing claims over a value of £10,000. For claims with a value of between £10,000 and £200,000, the court fee is calculated as 5% of the value of the claim. Therefore, a claim of £100,000 which previously had an issue fee of £1,150 will now have an issue fee of £5,000. For a claim of £200,000 or more claim, the issue fee is now £10,000. Previously, the fee for a £200,000 claim had been £1,515.00 which means that the fee has increased by more than 600%. It is anticipated that this will have the effect of reducing the number of money claims being issued.
So how will this impact disgruntled beneficiaries who wish to pursue claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the 1975 Act”).
Practitioners who deal with contentious estates have clearly been rattled by the impact that such huge increases in issue fees could have upon the potential for Claimants to pursue their claims. In 1975 Act Claims, the level of provision being claimed is commonly above £200,000. Given the tight limitation period for issuing 1975 Act Claims (six months from the date of the Grant of Probate), it is often necessary to issue protective proceedings in order to preserve the claim. However, an issue fee that is completely disproportionate to the amount that might be awarded in a 1975 Act Claim would clearly deter would-be Claimants.
However, whilst charities and other potential Defendants might think that this will lead to a significant drop off in 1975 Act Claims, they should think again. 1975 Act Claims are classed as “Part 8” Claims and they follow the rules in Part 8 of the Civil Procedure Rules. The news about the increase in Court fees has been a timely reminder that claims issued under the 1975 Act ought to be considered as “non-money” claims. In such claims, the Claimant seeks “provision” and can be awarded assets other than money, such as shares or property. Further, when a Claimant issues a 1975 Act Claim using the Part 8 Claim Form, it is not necessary to specify the value of their claim. The award that can be made by the Court is entirely discretionary.
We have heard that the courts in Leeds and Manchester at least concur with the view that 1975 Act claims fall within the category of non-money claims, the issue fee for which remains £480. This appears remarkably low compared to the new issue fees for money claims. However, given that the new legislation makes no amendments to the definitions of “money” and “non-money” claims, it must be concluded that the issue fee for 1975 Act Claims will continue to be the one for non-monetary claims which amounts to £480.
With that in mind, it would be right to assume that it is business as usual in the field of 1975 Act Claims.