David Sinclair, partner of Somerset law firm Acorn Solicitors and Chairman elect of Solicitors for the Elderly is disgusted at the new hike in Probate fees set to increase in May this year.
A Grant of Probate gives someone the authority to administer a person’s estate after death. This authority is granted by the government and therefore their fee is required up front before Probate can be granted.
Currently, a fixed fee of £155 (if using a Solicitor) is charged no matter what the size of the estate. In May, the representative of someone with a house worth £300,000.00 plus savings would have to pay £1,000.00 for Probate. This figure increases rapidly to £4,000.00 if the estate is worth more than £500,000.00. Moreover, this figure carries on increasing right up to £20,000.00 for an estate worth more than £2 million. With the ever increasing house prices, it is rare that a person will be paying the lowest fee of £300.00.
Claire Davies one of David’s colleagues from the board of directors at Solicitors for the Elderly has said:-
“Solicitors for the Elderly as an organisation is extremely disappointed to see that the consensus to reject the proposed probate fees has been ignored. For the 62% of estates that use a solicitor, probate registry performs a purely administrative role, and the value of the estate has no bearing on the work undertaken. To burden larger estates with a significantly larger fee is an unfair form of taxation."
Government analysis has shown that this will push families to desperate measures including borrowing money at costly rates. Charities, law groups and campaigners, across the country have expressed their feelings that these fees are excessive and unjustified.
David Sinclair, based in the Somerset offices of Taunton and Street has said that many people simply do not have the cash available to pay for these crippling fees. He said:-
"For people in this situation, their property is often their primary asset. They have little cash to pay for higher probate fees and other necessities. These necessities being inheritance tax, funeral bills and the use of a solicitor.
The increase in probate fees will place an unnecessary burden on families at a sensitive and distressing time. It is likely to put people who are vulnerable and/or elderly at risk. One of my fears is that such clients might be persuaded to take steps to avoid probate fees, even if the effect is to leave them with insufficient assets to provide for themselves for the rest of their life.”
The Treasury took £45 million from Probate Court Fees last year. With the planned increase in the fees this will to rise to £245m this year. Furthermore, this figure will reach £350m by 2021 demonstrating how grossly the Treasury is set to benefit from the increase! Simply put, this is just a Stealth Tax.