The government’s recent u-turn on a rise in probate fees is undoubtedly good news for anybody who will be responsible for administering the estate of a deceased family member or friend.
What is a Grant of Probate?
A grant of probate is an official document that gives a named executor the authority to deal with the property of a deceased person. The term is often used (and will be in this Note) to include a grant of representation which is the equivalent document needed by an administrator if someone dies without a will (an intestacy).
Changes to the process
The government’s proposal would have seen families paying up to £6,000 to obtain a grant of probate. Although also proposed raising the threshold for probate fees from £5,000 to £50,000 which would have meant around 25,000 estates would be free from probate fees altogether, it is estimated that the change in legislation would have meant higher charges for around 280,000 families annually.
The current fixed fee is £215, or £155 if a solicitor is applying for you.
The government this week dropped the plans which were due to come in to force next year following backlash from the public and organisations such as STEP and the Law Society.
There was concern as to how executors of an estate would be able to fund the fee if the estate comprised substantial property and little cash. It was thought that this would lead to executors aiming to avoid obtaining a grant, with the effect that estates would either be left unadministered or transferred to the beneficiaries without properly considering the terms of the will.
While this controversial overhaul of the probate fee system has been dropped, it draws focus onto the importance of obtaining proper legal advice both when carrying out your own estate planning and drawing up your will; and when administering the estate of a family member or loved one.