Somerset Residents will be hit hard if the planned government changes in probate court fees take effect.
At the moment the probate court fee is £150. The proposal is to make it nil for estates up to £50,000, £300 for estates valued between £50,000-£300,000, £1,000 for estates worth between £300,000-£500,000 and a staggering £20,000 for estates worth more than £2 million.
One of the groups hardest hit will be farmers as the farm and land can easily be worth £2 million or more. In most cases farmers have limited access to cash as money is tied up in livestock and machinery so this will mean they may have to borrow to pay this court fee.
This proposal makes no sense to me as the probate court has the same work to do regardless of the value of an estate generally. For the vast majority of my clients this will mean a court fee of £1,000 which is an increase of over 600%.
One of the fears I have is that clients will be pressured into transferring assets to avoid this charge and leaves people very vulnerable to financial abuse. There is also the risk at the other end of the spectrum for estates under £50,000 whereby banks may release money with little protection for the beneficiaries or a Will.
David Sinclair is a director of Solicitors for the Elderly a national organisation for Solicitors specialising in issues affecting older and vulnerable clients. Solicitors for the Elderly nationally is responding to the government consultation and is opposing this huge hike in court fees.