From April this year, a stepped fee structure is being introduced for Grant of Probate applications, increasing the costs to executors of the largest estates from £155 to £6,000.
Hannah Montague, a specialist wills and probate solicitor at Taylor&Emmet, said: “The problem is, executors need to pay the court fee, before money can be reclaimed from an estate. This will be a huge burden under the new system if you have a wealthy relative, but little in the way of funds yourself. Borrowing money may be the only option available to some.”
Currently, a Grant of Probate is required to administer an estate of more than £5,000, costing executors £215, if they are handling it themselves, or £155 if they instruct a solicitor. From April, charges will only apply to estates of more than £50,000, but the new fee structure will mean dealing with a large inheritance, results in an equally large bill.
Hannah added: “The justice minister, Lucy Fraser, is quoted as saying the new model represents a fair and progressive way to pay for probate services, although it could be argued whilst fees will reduce in some cases, bereaved families are being used to prop up the legal system. Experts predict the changes could net the Ministry of Justice an additional £250 million per year.
“In order to avoid the fee increase, I would recommend any executors in the early stages of dealing with an estate act quickly to avoid the looming deadline. From an individual point of view, we can all mitigate the impact of our death on family members by making a will and reviewing it regularly with a solicitor who can advise on succession planning.”