Revival of the probate fee rise?

Implementing the so-called ‘death tax’ could have damaging consequences for both the public and professionals.

According to recent reports, solicitors have responded negatively to the proposed reintroduction of the increase in probate fees, which was supposedly scrapped in the run-up to June’s snap election. However, the Law Gazette suggests that there has been a rise in speculation over whether the tax could be brought in on Wednesday (22/11/17) when Philip Hammond is set to deliver the budget statement.

Met with a great deal of criticism when first proposed, the change would mean that the amount of probate paid would rise accordingly with the value of the estate – currently, this is a fixed fee. Reports at the time suggested that the most valuable estates could have to pay as much £20,000 in order to obtain the grant of probate.

The funds obtained from the fees were then to be used to fund the courts and tribunals service, at an expected total of around £250 million per annum.

Sharing her thoughts on the potential announcement of the reform was Karon Walton. Speaking to the Gazette, the partner at Tollers Solicitors and director of Solicitors for the elderly stated: ‘Had Theresa May not called an election the fees would likely be in place now,’ she said.

‘The public and solicitors feel very strongly about it. It’s essentially a tax through the back door on people who have money in property.

‘There’s a suggestion that solicitors might have to foot the bill for an upfront fee. At the moment firms sometimes cover it because it’s a flat fee [which would then be claimed back through the estate]. I can’t see many solicitor firms saying they are going to cover fees that potentially stretch to thousands.’

Since the alleged ‘scrapping’ of the tax earlier this year, the Ministry of Justice has remained reluctant to provide any further details on its potential reintroduction, stating that its position would be ‘announced in due course’.

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