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11 April 2019

It would be tempting to simplify the government's description of the new probate charges as a 'fee' rather than a 'tax' as being a clear example of a misnomer. But this would fail to address the basic problem with this choice of words and by failing to admit, at least publicly, that the new fee scheme is a tax, the government is entering dangerous or perhaps even Orwellian territory.

There is nothing trifling about death and taxes, and the government knows this; after all, the new fee regime is predicted to raise around £155 million a year for the court coffers. But, perhaps the worst of this is that it goes against the very basic ethos of the conservative party and it is, in fact, more akin to socialist wealth redistribution. One is tempted to wonder whether the government fails to know its own mind or is simply in danger of evading the truth.

05 March 2019

The very nature of the living means that contentious probate cases will continue to be a feature of the legal landscape year on year. As more and more individuals decide to challenge the Wills of relatives and loved ones, we can certainly learn from the what goes before. In 2018 there were a number of significant cases of contested probate which found their way into the courts.

In fact, the number of cases involving a challenge to a Will are both too numerous and too complex for full consideration here. However, by reviewing a select trio of the contentious probate claims to hit the courts in 2018, it is possible to alight on some useful nuggets of advice to help any person who is about to embark on the process of writing a Will, comparing probate solicitors, finding a fixed fee probate service or indeed pursuing any other area of law related to Wills, probate, and estate administration.

06 November 2018

The Government has announced this morning that they plan to introduce legislation to increase probate court fees for estates valued at over £50,000. Currently, there is a flat fee across the board of £155 if using a solicitor, or £215 if applying in person.

 

The proposal is to increase the court fee on a sliding scale, determined by the estimated value of the estate:

Estates worth less than £50,000 will pay nothing, meaning estates worth between £5,000 and £50,000 will save £215 compared to the current system.

Estates worth between £50,000 and £300,000 will pay £250, a rise of £35.

Estates worth between £300,000 and £500,000 will pay £750, a rise of £535.

Estates worth between £500,000 and £1 million will pay £2,500, a rise of £2,285.

Estates worth between £1 million and £1.6 million will pay £4,000, a rise of £3,785.

Estates worth between £1.6 million and £2 million will pay £5,000, a rise of £4,785.

Estates worth more than £2 million will pay £6,000, a rise of £5,785.

19 September 2018

Q:  My partner and I are in our 50s, we own a property outright as tenants in common. We do not intend to get married as we have both been married (and divorced) before. I am worried that if my partner were to die, his estranged adult children would inherit his estate, leaving me in a difficult position financially in respect of the property.  I am also concerned about the issue of having to pay Inheritance Tax on my partner’s estate.

A: Yours is not an unusual situation; many middle-aged couples have chosen to live together without being married.

It is understandable that you are concerned about what would happen to you should your partner die without having left a Will.  When someone dies without a Will, then the estate is divided in line with the Rules of Intestacy and, unfortunately, intestacy law still does not recognise couples who are unmarried or not in a civil partnership. This would mean that either your partner’s children would inherit his half of the house you live in and may insist you buy out their share, or the house would have to be sold. 

09 August 2018

The Legal Services Board have now approved proposed new rules by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority which require law firms offering certain service  to publish their fees online.  Those who offer probate, motoring offences, immigration, debt recovery of amounts up to £100,000, and employment tribunals will have to implement these rules in December this year.  

The published fee information must also include details of disbursements, and whether they may be subject to VAT; and details of what is included in the services such as “key stages of the matter and likely timescales for each stage”. The fee information must be displayed in a “prominent place” on the website, and the information must be “clear and accessible”.

The action on transparency follows on from the Competition and Markets Authority’s recommendation in 2016.

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