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Guidance on New Probate Fees

The Ministry of Justice has published a response to the recent consultation to increase probate fees from May 2017.

The current fee for a solicitor extracting the grant is £155 regardless of the value of the estate. The new proposed charges include a banded systems of probate fees on a new scale, with estates below £50,000 being exempt from the fee, but higher value estates subject to substantial fees. The upper limit of estates with a value of more than £2 million will be charged a probate fee of £20,000.

The consultation paper consists of 28 pages. This guide contains extracts of the relevant parts for personal representatives.

Payment of the Probate Fee

The Ministry of Justice proposals include guidance to executors to suggest how the new fees can be paid. This is set out at paragraph 54 of the proposals and is set out below:

We believe that the standard ways that executors will pay the fee will include using:

- Cash in the deceased's estate, if released by the Bank or Building Society. HMRC data suggests that the average estate comprises of 25% cash. One respondent, a firm of solicitors, carried out an analysis of its client case files to determine whether on the whole estates would have adequate cash avaliable to cover the proposed fee, and found that on the limited sample of 40 estates, only 25% would have had insufficient funds.

- Personal assets of the executor, bearing in mind they would be out of pocket temporaily and would be able to reclaim the fee as a credit against the estate

- Assistance from beneficiaries of the estate

A loan (depending on the executor's credit rating)

- A solicitor or professional probate company could be appointed to act on the exectutor's behalf, who may be willing to pay the fee upfront

- An alternative executor named in the will may have adequate funds avaliable, or a better credit ratng and therefore be better placed to act.

The full consultation response can be downloaded from the following link:
https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/fee-proposals-for-grants-of-probate

Tony Illsley
Rutherfords LLP

Tony Illsley is a partner with Rutherfords LLP and the appointed panel solicitor for the Midlands Air Ambulance Charity for South Staffordshire and a panel solicitor for the National Free Wills Network.

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