Category: Trust & Probate

Rising Probate Fees

Rise in Probate Fees – Shelved

The planned rise in Probate fees which would have significantly increased the fees payable from larger estates has been shelved by the Government after calling the forthcoming general election.

To administer an estate Executors appointed in a Will or next-of-kin if there is no Will usually have to apply for a legal document called a Grant of Probate (if there is a Will) or a Grant of Letters of Administration (if there is no Will). At present, an application for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration is a flat fee of £215 for personal applications or £155 if a solicitor makes the application, regardless of the size of the estate. The fees were due to dramatically rise in May 2017 and were to be based on the size of the estate.

Estate values have risen considerably in recent years due to the rise in property values. One of the public concerns is that the proposed new Probate Court fees would have to be paid before there is access to the estate assets. This is currently not a problem as the fees are low but under the proposed increase, if an estate was worth more than £500,000 a Probate Court fee of £4,000 would need to be found from somewhere before the estate could start to be administered.

 

Changes In Probate Fees

The proposed changes to the fee structure were as follows:-

  • Less than £50,000: no fee
  • £50,001 to £300,000: Fees to rise to £300.
  • £300,001 to £500,000: Fees to rise to £1,000.
  • £500,001 to £1 million: Fees to rise to £4,000.
  • £1 million up to £1.6 million: Fees to rise to £8,000. 
  • £1.6 million up to £2 million: Fees to rise to £12,000. 
  • Over £2 million fees to raise to £20,000

The proposed changes, instigated by the Ministry of Justice, had looked to be rushed through Parliament ahead of the general election. The widespread disapproval of the proposals has led to them being put on the back burner. The result of the general election on June 8th will prove to be vital for the future of Probate Court fees. The current Government, if re-elected would be expected to follow through with the proposal for increasing the fees.

The proposed changes were strongly criticised by politicians and the legal sector alike and were described as a 'stealth tax'. Respected figures voiced their concerns that the proposed changes may have even been illegal which would have undoubtedly led to challenge had they been introduced.

 

“I am delighted that the proposed increase in Probate fees will not be happening as it was an extremely unfair and unpopular proposal which would have put considerable pressure on already bereaved families. Sadly, I think this may just be a temporary reprieve and that if re-elected, the Government will look to put this back on the agenda so it is still important to plan for the future and if someone needs a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, they should apply for it without delay." - Stephen Coates. Head of Wills, Trusts and Probate.

 

Stephen Coates is head of our Wills, Trusts and Probate team, dealing with a wide range of personal business disputes ranging from Will, trust and probate disputes to criminal and personal injury. Emma brings extensive and varied experience, including having worked on numerous contested probate cases and general litigation cases that progressed to Appeal at the High Court

 

 

 

Stephen Coates - Head of Wills, Trust & Probate

 

About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law, Charity Law.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

Will and probate dispute

Will Disputes On The Rise

One of the most stressful situations after a loved one has passed away is going through what they left behind. A Will is always a good idea to help make the process more simple and efficient as it sets out the last wishes of the deceased. It can however, be particularly painful if the Will created is not amended or updated as that persons relationships change, potentially leaving new people or family out of the Will.  

Most commonly in a Will, a deceased chooses to pass their money and assets down to their closest family members. In recent years we have seen a boost in the housing market with property prices increasing, meaning that the values of estates are much higher. The latest trend shows that more and more elderly people are bypassing their children and naming their grandchildren as the main beneficiaries.  

We have seen recently that one of the main issues people are having is forgetting to update their Will as they get older. Circumstances and relationships change with time so to avoid any potential problems or legal implications it is incredibly important to amend the Will whenever there is a change in circumstances.

The number of disputed cases brought before the courts has increased from 11,735 in 2014 to 14,167 the following year. This figure is likely to increase due the so called ‘wealth mountain’ that is expected to be passed on in the future. 

The Legal Implications

Some legal grounds why a will may be disputed may include: 

Validity

  • Has the will been validly constructed and signed? If the wording is not clear on some of the gifts then the Will may be valid but a specific gift fail.
  • Did the deceased have capacity?
  • Was the deceased subjected to any undue influence?

Challenges regardless of validity

  • Inheritance Act claims i.e. did the Will make reasonable financial provision?
  • Proprietary estoppel. Did the deceased promise to leave something to someone, who in return has acted on that promise and then not received it under the terms of the Will?

A recent case study of a dispute without a will came to an end last month after 13 years. A case last month which granted Heather Ilott £163,000 of her mother’s estate had been overturned in the high court. The judgement was responding to a court of appeal ruling to increase the sum a county court granted her on the grounds that her mother had acted in an “unreasonable, capricious and harsh” way towards her.

The amount she will now receive is just £50,000 of the estate instead of the £163,000 she had appealed for. The mother and daughter had fallen out and the mother passed on all of her £500,000 estate to three charities and Heather was left out of the will. The case has been ongoing since Melita Jackson died in 2004 and was wrapped up last month. Ilott made an application under the Inheritance Act 1975 for “reasonable financial provision” from her mother’s estate.

"There can be strict time limits in which to challenge a Will or seek reasonable financial provision from an estate.  We would suggest that you do not delay in seeking legal advice".

Emma Cornell is head of our Dispute resolution team, dealing with a wide range of personal business disputes ranging from Will, trust and probate disputes to criminal and personal injury. Emma brings extensive and varied experience, including having worked on numerous contested probate cases and general litigation cases that progressed to Appeal at the High Court

 

 

 

How can we help 

If you are in need of either writing or amending a will, our Wills, Probate and Trusts team can assist with a variety of different options to help you through the process clearly and efficiently.

If you are unsure if you have a case to dispute a will our dispute team can help you understand if and what you are entitled to and fight to get you  the desired result.

 

About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law, Charity Law.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

Ministry of Justice changes Probate Fees

Will Probate Suddenly Become More Expensive For You?

The Ministry of Justice is changing the way in which the Probate Court charges to issue a Grant of Probate. Currently a flat fee of £215 (or £155 if handled through a solicitor) is paid regardless of the value of the estate. From May 2017, the fee payable will be based on the estate value. For the highest value estates, the new fee will be a massive 129 times more expensive.

 

Ministry of Justice changes Probate Fees

What are the changes to Probate Fees?

From May 2017, subject to Parliamentary approval, the proposed scale of fees will be:

Value of Estate (before inheritance tax) Probate Court Fee
Up to £50,000 or exempt from

requiring a grant of probate

£0
£50,000 – £300,000 £300
£300,000 – £500,000 £1,000
£500,000 – £1m £4,000
£1m – £1.6m £8,000
£1.6m – £2m £12,000
Above £2m £20,000

There are a number of reasons why the government is making this change. They have been quite open in saying that the justice system needs to raise more money to properly fund a system which costs close to £1bn each year. This helps the government to deliver a fair and functional justice system which benefits everyone in society. They also believe that it is reasonable to ask those who use the justice system to pay more where they can afford to do so.

 

How will the new Probate Fees affect you?

One issue that arises is that the Probate Court fee must be paid in advance by the Executor(s). With the current low flat fee, this is not a problem. In future, those using the probate system will therefore need to find money to pay a much higher fee, and the government suggests ways that this might happen will include using cash in the deceased’s estate, using an Executor’s own assets or getting a loan.

The good news is that very few estates are large enough to incur the highest fees. According to government figures, 58% of estates will pay no fee following the change, while a further 23% will only pay £300. 1% of estates will pay a fee of £8,000, 0.3% will pay £12,000 and 0.5% will pay £20,000.

The Law Society expressed criticism of these proposals, suggesting that it is not fair on the bereaved to be paying to subsidise other parts of the judicial service.

If you think that any of this affects you then there is still time to act. If you are an Executor or Administrator for someone who has died with an estate over £50,000, it is vital that you apply for a Grant of Probate (or Letters of Administration) before the increase takes effect.

Our Probate Lawyers at both our Doncaster and Sheffield offices can act for you to ensure that, if at all possible, an application for a Grant is submitted before the changes take effect, even in complex cases. Our expertise could save an estate almost £20,000!

If you are an Executor and you do not act quickly enough and a new higher fee has to be paid, the beneficiaries of an estate could hold you personally responsible.

However, time is running out so you must act quickly. In many cases where higher fees will be payable, you will only be able to apply for a Grant after HM Revenue & Customs have stamped and returned a Form IHT421. HMRC are currently taking several weeks to do this. If you do not act quickly, you may find yourself missing a deadline to pay the lower fees as a result of HMRC delays!

We cannot stress enough the importance of getting professional help and advice as soon as possible.

 

How can we help?

Our Probate Lawyers in Doncaster and Sheffield can help you with any inheritance issue, whether you are planning in advance or are managing the effects of a bereavement. Speak to Stephen Coates at our Doncaster office (01302) 640384 or Sue Fletcher at our Sheffield office (0114) 3990096.

 

About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law, Charity Law.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

Inheritance tax

How Careful Planning Could Save You Billions!

 

Inheritance tax

Head of Wills, Trusts & Probate (Sheffield) Lauren Smith explains how the Duke of Westminster managed to avoid a huge Inheritance Tax bill

Inheritance Tax was first introduced with the intention of taxing the rich; however, recent statistics have revealed that more and more people are being affected.

Currently, when a person dies they can leave up to £325,000 worth of assets to their loved ones without incurring an inheritance tax liability. Anything over £325,000 is taxed at 40%. From April 2017 the rules change and, for some people, these thresholds will increase.

For more information on the changes to the Inheritance Tax rules and how you could be affected, click here to read our recent blog on the changes to Inheritance Tax.

 

The Duke of Westminster

On 9th August 2016 aged 69, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, the sixth Duke of Westminster, passed away. It is expected that his 25 year old son, Hugh, will receive both his title and his £9 billion property portfolio.

In theory, Hugh Grosvenor should have incurred a huge IHT bill of over £3.5 billion! But thanks to careful planning, this has been avoided.

How has Inheritance Tax been avoided?

It is believed that the assets have been distributed over the years into separate trusts for future generations of the family. This means that IHT was avoided as the value of the asset which actually passed under the deceased’s estate did not exceed the £325,000 band.

 

Is this a legal strategy?

It completely legal to distribute assets into trusts.  It is, however, important that you seek professional advice on the matter. Trusts can be very complex documents, and can have tax implications to consider at the time the trusts are established. Here at Taylor Bracewell we can assist and ensure that your wishes are met.

 

How can we help?

We have a specialist team of experienced Wills and Probate Lawyers in Doncaster and Sheffield to help you navigate the complex and confusing field of Inheritance Tax and any applicable exemptions in order to preserve your assets for future generations and avoid the having to pay unnecessary tax.

For further information, contact Lauren Smith on lauren@taylorbracewell.co.uk or another member of our Personal Law team at personal@taylorbracewell.co.uk. You can also call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

SPOTLIGHT ON…Stephen Coates

“I wanted to be a lawyer…but 8 hours of lectures spread over a week didn’t inspire me”

Last month, we began writing a series of ‘Spotlight on…’ blog posts featuring paralegals, lawyers and solicitors that began their legal career without a law degree, in order to showcase what could be achieved if you joined the firm as an apprentice.

The series of blogs proved very popular, so we have decided to extend this to give you an insight into more members of our fantastic team. Today’s blog features Head of Wills, Probate & Trusts in Doncaster, Stephen Coates.

Do you have a law degree?

No.

How long have you worked at Taylor Bracewell?

2 Years.

Current Job title?

Head of Wills, Probate & Trusts, Doncaster

What was your first job?

Christmas temp in music at WH Smith. As a 19-year-old, getting to play the latest music releases first was a great perk of the job. Instead of 6 weeks I ended up staying for 2 years!

Did you always know you wanted to do legal work?

I started a law degree at university and soon realised that although I wanted to be a lawyer, the structure and cost (even in 1994!) of studying for a degree was not for me. I wanted to be busy and working and 8 hours of lectures spread over a week did not really inspire me.

Your journey to becoming a lawyer:

I started working at Atteys Solicitors in 1997 in the equivalent role then to what an Apprenticeship is now. I did not choose to work in the area of Wills, Probate and Trusts at the start, but I quickly realised it was an area that interested me and something I could be successful in. Through working hard I have gone from being an assistant to being a fee-earner in my own right and then Head of Wills, Probate and Trusts.

What do you love about Taylor Bracewell?

Taylor Bracewell is a very friendly place to work, with a real family’ feel. You are given the respect and freedom to your job without interference or pressure, but with the knowledge that support is there if you need it. The legal profession is changing and the firm is embracing this and using it give more opportunities to more people, including myself, to develop their careers.

Look out for the next in our series of ‘Spotlight on…’ blog posts next week!

About Taylor Bracewell

Taylor Bracewell operates from offices in Thorne Road and Ten Pound Walk in Doncaster and Fountain Precinct in Sheffield. Specialist areas are: Family Law, Business Law, Personal Law (including Wills, Probate, Trusts and Conveyancing), Dispute Resolution, HR & Employment Law.

You can contact us at hello@taylorbracewell.co.uk or call us on 01302 341 414 in Doncaster or 0114 272 1884 in Sheffield.

Lauren Smith | Head of Probate (Sheffield)

Lauren joined Taylor Bracewell in December 2014 as Head of Probate in the Sheffield Office.

Sheffield born and bred, Lauren qualified as a Solicitor in 2006 and has specialised in Wills and Probate ever since. Working at several firms throughout South Yorkshire Lauren is well known in the region for her advanced expertise, meticulous attention to detail and empathic approach to clients’ needs and circumstances.

Lauren has considerable experience in dealing with a variety of work including Wills, Trusts, Probate, Powers of Attorneys, Inheritance Tax advice, Asset Protection advice and Court of Protection Applications.

Lauren is a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners’ (STEP), which assures clients of her expertise as a Trust and Estate Practitioner. STEP is the leading worldwide professional body for practitioners in the fields of trusts, estates and related issues: its members are subject to a rigorous code of professional conduct and are the most experienced and senior practitioners in the field of trusts and estates.

Out of the office Lauren enjoys travelling, going to the cinema and spending time with family and friends.

I Do! – The Effect on your Will!

Summer 2014 cannot possibly be here soon enough! In all the giddiness and celebration however, we must also consider the legal issues at a time like this. There are some rather far reaching implications which are yet to be confirmed either way. The first question on the lips of many is this; does the Same Sex Marriage Billnow confer on spouses similar traditional and legal rights previously reserved only for heterosexual couples?

For instance, in England and Wales, where either spouse made a will prior to marriage; the law presumes that it would be the natural intention of such a spouse to change the Will to include their husband or wife. As such, their Will and not-so-final codicil is automatically revoked. The only exception to this would be where the person making the Will (the Testator) clearly states that it is being made in contemplation of imminent marriage to a named person. Needless to say, should that marriage never take place and the proverbial knot is subsequently tied years later to a differently named person, the Will is automatically revoked.

But is this the case under Same Sex Marriage? That remains to be seen. One would think that it should be the case seeing as the rule affects heterosexual marriages as well as civil partnerships; but it’s early days yet and no one knows for certain. However given the issues at stake in terms of a Will being valid or revoked, these things are better off not left to chance.

For expert opinion, legal advice and support on Wills, Estate Planning, Probate, Inheritance Tax and related issues, please contact Peter Caswell, our Personal Law Partner on 01302 640410 or at peter@taylorbracewell.co.uk

Peter is renowned for taking the time to fully understand his clients’ particular circumstances and providing them with bespoke advice tailored to their very needs. So if you are concerned about the validity or otherwise of your Will following marriage, divorce, civil partnership or proposed same sex marriage, speak to Peter today.