15 February 2019 | Comment | Article by Eleanor Evans TEP
Significant increases to probate fees will take effect in April 2019 (exact date is still to be confirmed), assuming the proposals are approved by the House of Commons.
Probate fees must be paid up front, before the grant of probate can be issued. The fees are currently £155 for solicitors and £215 for individuals; an amount that can usually be raised without difficulty.
The fees payable under the new structure are set out below, and could be up to £6,000 for the most valuable estates – an amount many people will be unable to easily find.
|Value of estate (before inheritance tax)
|Up to £50,000 or exempt from requiring a grant of probate
|£50,000 – £300,000
|£300,000 – £500,000
|£500,000 – £1 million
|£1 million – £1.6 million;
|£1.6 million – £2 million
|Above £2 million
What are the likely options?
Banks releasing cash to pay fees
Most estates include some cash in bank accounts, and it is likely that banks will be prepared to release money before the grant of probate has been obtained, to cover the probate fees. A similar process already exists for inheritance tax. Exactly how this will work is yet to be confirmed, including how any adjustments to the value of the estate post-grant of probate will be dealt with (as these may change the fee due).
Assistance from the probate service
Lucy Frazer MP has confirmed that, where banks or building societies refuse to release money to pay the fee, the probate service is willing to write to them to confirm the money is needed to pay the fees.
It is likely that financial institutions will begin to offer loans to cover probate fees, although such products are likely to be expensive.
Limited grants of probate
For cases where there is no cash available to pay the fee upfront and a loan cannot be obtained, it will be possible to apply for a limited grant of probate. This will enable personal representatives to have partial access to certain funds in the estate, for the sole purpose of paying the probate fee.
For further information on the changes to probate fees and how these may affect you, please contact us using the enquiry form at the bottom of the page.