14 October 2019
The Ministry of Justice has scrapped plans for a dramatic increase in probate fees which would have seen the existing flat-rate system replaced with fees of between £250 and £6,000 for estates worth more than £50,000.
An earlier plan to raise probate fees was dropped just before the 2017 general election but then revived in 2018. This time, however, it seems that the idea has been killed off for good. The plan was the subject of fierce opposition by Conservative-supporting newspapers such as The Telegraph. The charity sector also welcomed the decision, as the higher fees were expected to cut into the share of estates left to charities.
5 August 2019
The Guardianship of Missing Persons Act 2017 has come into force. This provides a means for relatives of someone who is missing to try to protect the property or financial assets of that person, for example by keeping up mortgage payments on a house or renewing an insurance policy. It also allows dependants of the missing person to continue to receive support from that person's resources. The procedure requires an application to the court for the appointment of a guardian who must abide by a supervisory regime designed to protect the interests of the missing person.
13 February 2019
The cost of a death certificate is to rise from £4 to £11 in England and Wales on 16 February. The increase has been set by the General Register Office, which is accountable to the Home Office.
In the past, individuals dealing with estates might have ordered several certificates to send to local and national authorities, banks, pension providers and others as evidence of a death. The increased cost of a death certificate is likely to encourage a greater use of certified copies wherever possible. In addition, some government agencies as well as financial institutions can be advised of a death through the single-notification systems which are now available.
12 November 2018
The Ministry of Justice has revived controversial plans for sharp increases to probate fees that were abandoned just before the 2017 general election.
At present, applicants pay a flat fee of £215 (or £155 if the application is made through a solicitor). Under the new proposals, the fees will vary depending on the size of the estate. The largest estates, worth more than £2 million, will now bear a fee of £6,000 (compared to £20,000 under the earlier plan). The government claims that around 80% of estates will pay £750 or less.
The new proposals have already attracted controversy. The Law Society has attacked them as a 'stealth tax'. The charitable sector is also concerned about the effect on legacy income. The higher fees will fall on the residue of an estate, which is often left to charity under a Will.
The government hopes to introduce the new fees in spring 2019.