Government drops ‘Death Tax’ plans after grieving families suffer months of uncertainty and long probate delays

Government drops ‘Death Tax’ plans after grieving families suffer months of uncertainty and long probate delays

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland planned a hike of probate charges - of as much as 2,700 per cent for some better off bereaved people - was not 'fair and proportionate'.

Applying for probate is an important step to gain control over an estate after someone dies and the proposed new sliding scale of fees had provoked outrage among politicians, lawyers and inheritance experts.

What are probate charges?

Applying for probate is an important step allowing bereaved families to gain control over an estate after someone dies.

At present, applying for probate costs a flat fee of £215, or £155 if a lawyer does it on your behalf.

The Government initially proposed an increase of up to £20,000 for the largest estates - a 9,200 per cent hike for people applying for probate themselves - but moderated its plans following a fierce outcry.

The massive new charges were scheduled for April, but although they never materialised lawyers said executors were under pressure and could face legal challenges.

 

They warned beneficiaries would blame executors for delays that landed them with big bills, but there was also a risk of claims against them if they rushed to apply for probate and made mistakes. 

The Government was also urged to stop 'piling pressure' on bereaved families and Impose the new fees on a less stressful timetable.

 

Inheritance professionals suggested they should only be levied on the estates of people who die from the start of April onwards, to prevent a rush of grieving relatives making applications before the anticipated deadline to dodge increased bills afterwards.

Legal experts said the probate service was hit by a 'perfect storm' because the rush to beat fees happened alongside a drastic overhaul involving staff cuts, office closures, new IT systems and changes to work processes.

Solicitors for the Elderly met with officials in September, and were told things were getting back to normal and application approvals should soon be back to pre-March timings. 

 

Ministers have ordered a wider review of court fees.

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