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Update Will warning as probate fee increase planned

An expert is warning those planning for the future to seek proper advice as plans were unveiled to increase the cost of distributing a deceased person’s estate.

Currently these probate fees – a court fee levied by the probate registry – are fixed at either £155 or £215, but under proposals from the Ministry of Justice, will be increased to between £300 and £20,000 depending on the size of estate left by a deceased person.

The Government has argued that only a small proportion of people will be affected by the changes, which have recently been out for public consultation, but Charlotte Cooper, solicitor in the Wills & Estate Planning team at Napthens, warns with high house prices this may not be the case.

For instance, the new thresholds for probate fees are staggered so that the fee for a property worth between £50,000 and £300,000 would be £300, rising to £1,000 for a property worth up to £500,000 and increasing to £4,000 for a property worth up to £1million.

Charlotte explained: “Many people who would not consider themselves wealthy, may end up paying a very large probate fee because of the value of property involved.

“The charge is a non-negotiable fee, and is the first liability on an estate. The cost has to be paid before any beneficiary, and therefore this proposed new fee structure could hit some people hard.

“As a result, there has never been a more important time to ensure a Will is up to date, and look at using more Trusts which can be an effective vehicle for passing assets to another generation. We also work with many clients to ensure that an entire estate isn’t simply left to a surviving spouse, sometimes jumping a generation of leaving assets to children instead.

“Tax rules around Trusts are particularly complex, so it is important to seek specialist advice. This also means the executor of a Will must also be chosen very carefully to ensure the deceased wishes are correctly carried out.”

Napthens Solicitors Employee Charlotte Cooper