Probate service

Are Probate Fees About To Rise?

The government want to raise probate fees 300x199 Are Probate Fees About To Rise?

The government has recently been discussing probate fees, and the idea that it might be time for them to rise. Currently, there is a flat fee for probate (£155 if made through a solicitor, or £215 is made by an individual) that everyone must pay in order to be awarded their grant of probate. However, the new plans that the government are keen to bring in will mean that rather than one fixed fee that everyone pays, it will become a banded fee. That means that the cost of probate will change depending on how much an estate is worth.

There are due to be talks about this on 1st April 2016.

Probate is the process, in England and Wales, of applying to deal with the estate of someone who has died. The executor of the will is the person who should apply for the grant of probate, and this comes from the probate registry. According to the Ministry of Justice, around half of all deaths don’t lead to an application for a grant of probate. Reasons for this could include the bank not requiring a deed to release funds (perhaps the assets were owned jointly), or in cases were the value of any assets is less than £5,000.  

The new, potentially higher, fees are to go towards the additional work that the Probate Service now has to do.

The new plan is as follows:

If the value of the estate is less than £50,000 (or is exempt from needing a grant of probate) there will be no fee; estates between £50,000 and £300,000 will cost £300; estates between £300,001 and £500,000 will cost £1,000; estates between £500,001 and £1 million will cost £4,000; estates between £1 million and £1.6 million will cost £8,000; estates between £1.6 million and £2 million will cost £12,000; estates over £2 million will cost £20,000.

The good news, however, is that although these fees must be paid before the grant of probate is released, the executor will be reimbursed through the deceased’s estate, and therefore will not actually lose any money. 

“Government increasing taxes on death” says probate expert

"Government increasing taxes on death" says probate expert

probate Government increasing taxes on death says probate expert

Government proposals to alter fixed rate probate fees to a banding system has been called "inheritance tax by the back door" by probate specialist, Tony Crocker of IWC.

The fixed fee for probate applications rose recently – a move, said the government, which was deemed necessary to fund additional administrative work carried out by the Probate Service.

These new proposals however, which are out for consultation until 1 April, would see probate fees being charged on estates valued in excess of £50,000 according to a banding system.  Fees would then start at £300 for estates valued between £50,001 and £300,000; up to £20,000 for estates valued above £2 million.

YM EstateValue Government increasing taxes on death says probate expert

Currently, estates under £5000 are not subject to probate legislation and the government plans to raise this threshold to £50,000, meaning that according to its figures, over half of estates would pay no probate fee at all.

IWC questions the validity of this view however, with the average London house price now standing at over £500,000.  It is these house prices, the company claims, which will cause problems for executors faced with paying money up front for probate fees, funeral fees and inheritance tax at 40% – and not enough money in the deceased's bank account to cover them.  These executors will be forced to offer up the remaining funds themselves or, as the government suggests, to take out a short term bank loan, until the property sells and they can recoup the funds – which of course will attract interest rates and affect their credit rating.

Although packaged as a move to assist those dealing with smaller estates, IWC's Tony Crocker says that, in its bid to raise £250 million for the Exchequer, the government is actually "giving with one hand and taking with the other".

For anyone who suspects that their next of kin may find themselves struggling financially with these new proposed changes, they may be able to avoid probate altogether, by placing their property into trust, now.

In our next blog post, we'll outline how trusts can be a means of avoiding probate, how to create a trust and what happens to it after your death.

#iwcprobate #bereaved #probate

Probate Service changes makes for faster service

Probate Service changes makes for faster service

Changes to the way in which the Probate Service operates, has resulted in significantly decreased probate process times, in the majority of cases.

The changes, which were implemented on 22 April this year, focused on the probate application fee structure – which was often complicated and commonly caused significant delays.

Recently released statistics however, show that since this new structure was adopted, the Probate Service has issued 161,000 grants of representation submitted by probate professionals within its target of seven working days.  In addition, it has issued 97.6% of its grants of representation through applications submitted personally, within its deadline of eight weeks.

A grant of representation is usually presented to the executor of an estate.  This documentation is required in order to allow the executor to begin handling the deceased's financial affairs – liaising with banks and other financial institutions, paying bills and taxes before finally distributing the remainder of the person's assets.

In the past, it could often take several weeks in order for applications made by probate professionals to be processed. It pays therefore, to use a probate expert, when dealing with the death of an individual.  Our probate experts at IWC Ltd can ensure that you will receive the best legal advice, the best value for money and in most cases, a speedy service.  Contact us today on 0800 612 6105 or 020 8150 2010.

Policeman produced fraudulent will

Policeman produced fraudulent will

It was disappointing to learn of a former police officer, who tried to produce a fraudulent will in the name of his deceased father.

Ronald Hart had not actually written a will, and so it was that he in fact died intestate. His son however, 41 year old Darren Hart, subsequently produced a will for the probate service which, he said, belonged to his father.

The will was discovered to be fraudulent, although Darren Hart denied the charge in court recently. The jury found him to be guilty and he is due to be sentenced later next month.

Mr Hart was found to have had an accomplice in the fraud, although a decision has not yet been made, whether or not to prosecute this other man.

It is bad enough to try and forge the will of his late father, but for an ex-policeman to turn to crime in this way is astounding. This case does demonstrate two things, however:

a. It’s never a good idea to try and fool the probate service
b. It is a good idea however, to prepare a will in advance, so this kind of activity cannot take place.

Being well prepared means that forgery, ambiguity and potential disputes can all be avoided, ensuring that the money you earn during your lifetime, is given to whom you choose, after you’ve gone.

Probate service fees

As with many other price increases that we have seen in recent times, the basic costs of probate fees have also risen. From April 2011 the cost of probate applications went up by more than 10%. Currently the probate application fee for non-solicitors or lay applicants is £105 up from its previous figure of £90. This amount comprises £45 for the application for grant and a further £60 for the personal application which is effectively the cost of attending the probate registry.
 
Here’s a breakdown of Government will and probate fees:
 
The fee for depositing a will for safe custody in a district or principal registry is £20. The price of an inspection of a will or any other document in the presence of a registry officer is also £20.
 
An Application for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, where the assessed value of the estate exceeds £5,000, is £45.  Resealing a grant costs the same.
 
A Personal application fee where the assessed value of the estate exceeds £5,000 is £60, this is essentially the cost to attend the registry.
 
A special application or duplicate/subsequent application in respect of the same person is £20. This includes an application following a revoked grant and excludes a grant limited to settled land, part of the estate, or to a trust property.
 
Copies of all documents involved have a surcharge regardless of whether they are provided as certified copies or not. For the first copy the charge is £6 and for every subsequent copy of the same document is £1 if they are supplied at the same time. If the documents are provided in electronic format the price per copy is £4.
 
You can view the Government report here which details all probate charges including searches, oaths and entering in a caveat. 
 
 
If you have any other questions about the various costs involved, don’t hesitate to call us free on 0800 612 6105

ICAEW to regulate probate services?

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has revealed plans to regulate probate services within alternative business structures.
 
The introduction of the Legal Services Act, late in 2011, saw everyone from small businesses to supermarkets being able to provide legal advice, as well as specific probate advice to consumers, with mixed results.  
 
As a regulator, the ICAEW would be in charge of issuing licences to these types of firms, whether or not they featured trained lawyers.
 
The process to approve the institute as a regulator is expected to take up to a year and will hopefully be a step in the right direction towards regulating the will writing and probate industry as a whole. In this way, consumers will once again gain confidence that they are receiving the best advice based on their practitioner’s experience and expertise.

The sad truth about probate fees

It’s contemptible that when people are at their most vulnerable, unscrupulous probate providers are cashing in. Here are some of the disturbing practices that occur within the industry, highlighting why it’s important to choose carefully.
  • Practitioners refuse to quote fixed probate fees
  • Extra charges are buried in the small print
  • Grieving relatives are subjected to hard-sell tactics
  • Banks charging up to 4.5% of the estate value
  • Families are prevented from shopping around for better deals
  • Unregulated firms give out poor or misleading advice
The probate services market is estimated to be worth around £1.25 billion. Unfortunately, where there’s big business, there are mercenary practices. The most disturbing is something known as ‘baiting.’ This is where will writers offer their services as a loss leader while insisting they are named sole or joint executor of a will. When a death occurs, bereaved families feel obliged to use the services of the company and are charged extortionate fees for probate. 
 
Consumer groups have reported cases of the point blank refusal of unwanted executors to renounce their position. This is despite the fact that it is a straightforward process for someone to stand-down. However, they can then only be removed if the relatives make an application to the High Court.
 
A 2010 article titled, Exposed Banks that Prey on the Bereaved published by the Daily Mail, tells the story of John and Judy Berryman. A high street bank tried to charge more than £25,000 for probate services after appointing itself as executor when the will was made.
 
The much welcomed changes proposed by the Legal Services Board for stricter regulation of the industry cannot come soon enough.
 
To protect yourself
  • Anyone with an existing will should pay close attention to executor clauses. Check who is named and find out their charges.
  • Obtain at least 3 quotes.
  • Get a fixed fee for probate.
  • Read the small print and make sure there are no hidden extras.
  • Choose a company that’s regulated by the Society of Will Writers and Estate Planning Practitioners.
  • If you’ve found yourself with an unwanted executor, we can let you know where you stand, call us for free advice on 0800 612 6105.

How to Decide If You Need a Fixed Fee Probate Service

If you have lost a loved one, you may be faced with the choice of dealing with probate yourself, appointing a solicitor to deal with probate on your behalf, or using a fixed fee probate service.
 
It may be the first time you have found yourself in a position where you need to deal with probate, and the prospect of doing so can be daunting at a time when you are grieving. This guide should help you to decide whether to deal with probate yourself, or appoint a fixed fee probate service.
 
Has The Deceased Left Assets of Less Than £5000?
 
If your loved one has left assets of less than £5000, after funeral expenses you will not need to apply for probate at all. You will just need to provide your bank with proof that your loved one has died to access their accounts. Some banks have raised this limit to £10,000, so do check with the deceased’s bank.
 
Are Your Loved Ones Assets Held in Joint Accounts?
 
If all of your loved ones financial assets are held in joint accounts with you, you won’t need to apply for probate. Again, you will just need to provide proof that your loved one has died, to the financial institutions involved and they will transfer the joint accounts into your name.
 
Are Children Under the Age of 18 Involved?
 
If children under the age of 18 are entitled to some of the deceased’s assets, it is wise to seek legal advice or contact a specialist fixed fee probate service to deal with the estate on your behalf.
 
Are the Deceased’s Financial Affairs Complicated?
 
If the deceased’s financial affairs are not straightforward, it may be better to use a fixed fee probate service to deal with the estate on your behalf.

Do You Feel Comfortable Calculating Taxes?
 
Part of your loved ones estate may be liable for inheritance tax. This will involve dealing with HMRC and calculating any taxes owing. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this and you are worried that you might get it wrong, it is better to get a specialist company to deal with probate on your behalf.
 
Is The Will Likely to Be Contested?
 
If relatives of the deceased are likely to contest the will, it may be less stressful for you to appoint a specialist probate service to deal with the estate on your behalf. Even if the will is unlikely to be contested, those who are entitled to benefit from it may not understand how lengthy the process is, and they could put pressure on you if you are dealing with probate yourself. If you use a specialist fixed fee probate service, you will not have to deal with the additional stress this may cause you.

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