Probate is a process where a will could be proved in a court of law to be accepted as a valid document of an authentic final testament of the deceased. The first step in the legal process is the granting of the probate. It helps in the administration of the estate belonging to the deceased. It resolves all claims by dependents and distributes the property and assets of a deceased by means of a will or testament. The probate court will decide on the legal validity of the will of a person and will grant its approval. This is known as the granting of the probate to an executor of the will.
The latest news on the issue of probate in the United Kingdom is the Law Society’s uproar on probate not to be treated as a profit centre.
The government is planning to eradicate the flat-rate fee structure for probate and then replace that with a system of tiered charges. The Law Society finds this to be too harsh. The government cannot treat the probate service by charging exorbitant fees and treat it as a profit centre, particularly to bereaved and vulnerable people.
The Ministry of Justice is looking to replace the flat fee of 215 British Pounds and bring in tiered charge system. The solicitors are worried that these changes may result in few relatives paying fees that could go up to as high as twenty thousand British Pounds in some cases concerning estates that may be valued at more than two million British Pounds. The new charging structure may not charge any fees to estates that are valued at less than fifty thousand British Pounds.
Under this new system, estates that are valued at between 500,000 to 1,000,000 British Pounds, the fees would be 4,000 British Pounds. For estates valued at between 1,000,000 to 1,600,000 British Pounds, the fees would be 8,000 British Pounds. For estates valued at between 1,600,000 to 2,000,000 British Pounds, the fees would be 12,000 British Pounds, and so on.
Several families may find themselves being hit by exorbitant charges if a wealthy loved one kicks the bucket. The Law Society is apprehensive about such plans. They are also wary about the government’s plans to stop charging reduced fees for solicitors who apply for probates. People may find it difficult to take legal help in the future concerning probates. The Law Society feels that the proposed top fee is excessively inflated. They consider it as another form of a considerable tax imposition. Paying 20,000 British Pounds would result to paying a hundred and twenty times more than the current fee level.
It is rather unfair to expect the bereaved family members to subsidise or fund such fees and various other parts of the tribunals and courts’ services. Court fees may be essential as a funding source but they cannot be charged over and above a specific service cost.
Some solicitors are currently assisting executors by paying the probate fees as means of disbursement; if this fee increases drastically, many legal firms may have to forego such goodwill gesture. Fees channeled through the probate services may be formulated to cover the cost of operating and maintaining the probate service but these funds cannot be redirected to fund other systems of the court.
The new fee structure will motivate people to bring down the value of their estates on paper to reduce the probate fees or avoid it totally. This could also be done by adding another name on a said property or a bank account or by holding assets in an offshore account.