New fees for probate applications
From April 2019, the Government intends to increase the fees paid to the court when making an application for a grant of probate in England and Wales.
The fee at present is £155 if it is a solicitor making the application, or £215 if it is done personally, with estates under £5,000 paying no fee.
The standard fee reflects the fact that the same level of work is required from the court no matter the value of the estate.
Jessica Rowbotham, assistant solicitor at Wake Smith, looks at the changes.
“From April, this is set to change with the larger estates paying up to £6,000 to obtain a grant.
“Those estates worth below £50,000 will benefit under the new fees, paying no fee to obtain a grant.
“All estates above this and up to £300,000 will pay £250, those between £300,001 and £500,000 will pay £750, those between £500,001 and £1m will pay £2,500, those between £1m and £1.6m will pay £4,000, those between £1.6m and £2m will pay £5,000 and estates worth over £2m will pay the maximum fee of £6,000.
“Probate court fees are payable before the grant is obtained, and therefore before executors are entitled to access the deceased’s funds. The executors of the estate will be required to pay the fees in the first instance, perhaps requiring a loan or use of their own funds.
“In 2017, the Government tried to introduce a similar fee increase. This was opposed by parliament and therefore scrapped as it could not be completed before the 2017 general election. The fees to be introduced in April are similar to these, but at a much lower level, with the 2017 proposed fees reaching up to £20,000 for the largest estates.”
The potential new court fees are just one change to the process of applying for a grant of probate.
Jessica added: “As from December 2018, the courts now accept a signed statement of truth in the place of a sworn oath when applying for a grant. This means the legal document sent to the court no longer needs to be sworn in the presence of a solicitor.
“This does not negate the importance of ensuring documents sent to the court are completed correctly and fully, especially ensuring asset values are correct.
“We would always recommend expert advice is sought on this issue.
“It is important that the correct values are given not only to determine how much inheritance tax is payable, but also to prevent inadvertently causing yourself a capital gains tax liability. This is especially important when there is property and/or stocks and shares in the estate.”