Probate

BREAKING NEWS – Increase in Probate Court Fees

When applying for a Grant of Representation  (this is the document required to enable the Personal Representatives of the estate to deal with the deceased’s estate)  the Personal Representatives  are aware that there will be a court fee payable.

It is currently a manageable amount of £155 via a solicitor, £215 without the assistance of a solicitor and £0 if the value estate is under £5,000. These  can be paid by an individual without too much financial hardship and it can later be reclaimed by the estate.

Following a recent Government consultation options were discussed to increase the fees charged to obtain the Grant of Representation. The new fee structure is significantly different to the current structure and is now based on the value of the deceased’s estate –

Value of estate (before Inheritance Tax) Proportion of Estates in England and Wales Proposed Fee
Up to £50,000 (or not requiring a Grant) 58% £0
Over £50,000 but under £300,000 23% £300
Over £300,000 and up to £500,000 11% £1,000
Over £500,000 and up to £1Million 6% £4,000
Over £1Million and up to £1.6Million 1% £8,000
Over £1.6Million and up to £2Million 0.3% £12,000
Over £2Million 0.5% £20,000

Under the new fee structure the majority of estates would not be required to pay any fees for obtaining a Grant of Representation, however –please be reminded that very few estates under £50,000 actually require a Grant of Representation so this would not have a great impact on many estates under the changes.

The greatest changes will be felt for the 23% of estates over £50,000 but under £300,000 and the 11% of estates over £300,000 but under £500,000 whereby the Probate Court Fee is significantly more than the current £155.

This would pose financial hardship on Personal Representatives should the estate not have sufficient cash assets to cover the fees (as the banks will release payment from the deceased’s bank account for the Probate Court Fee). For example, if the main asset is a property. In this instance the Personal Representatives may have to seek assistance in the form of a loan to cover the fees from the deceased’s bank or in deed their own.

There are no specific details as to whether the Probate Court will permit a payment plan arrangement with the Personal Representatives with full settlement of the balance of the fee payable once the estate is in funds eg after the sale of the property. It  is hoped that given these significant changes the Probate Court will be open to such an arrangement.

It appears that the fees will be chargeable on all estates where the values are in excess of £50,000 regardless of whether the estate is to be left to a surviving spouse or a charity, which would qualify for an exemption for Inheritance tax purposes.

The legal profession on a whole have been very disappointed with the changes as the fees are highly disproportionate to the work undertaken by the Probate Court. The work involved in issuing a Grant of Representation in a higher value estate does not justify the proposed cost in comparison with the work involved in an estate which does not exceed £50,000 and therefore no fee is payable.

The new fees are due to be implemented in May 2017 but there is no fixed date at present.

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Probate, Uncategorized

Probate Court Fees – Expected Hike

The Government has issued proposals to increase the fee paid to the Probate Registry for obtaining a Grant of Probate.  A Grant of Probate is very often required when someone dies to allow the estate to be administered.  Currently the fee is £155.00 for all estates which have a value of more than £5,000.

Is this fair?

The proposals suggest that there should be no fee for estates of value less than £50,000 which will make it cheaper to administer estates of less than that sum.  However the raising of this threshold is countered by a massive increase on higher value estates.  For example the fee to obtain a Grant of Probate for an estate worth £2 million or more will become £20,000.  The following consequences seem either to unfair or unsatisfactory or both:

  1. People seeking to organise their affairs (especially the elderly) might be persuaded to move their assets out of their name to their children or into some form of ‘Trust’ so that when they die their estate is of a lower value and therefore a Grant of Probate will not be necessary.  Vulnerable people might be persuaded to part with assets, which may not be in their best interests.  Unregulated organisations might see this as a marketing tool to try and grab business from elderly people in this manner.
  2. Although most very large estates will have cash in them to enable payment of the probate fee some very large estates may almost entirely consist of property or shares and it may not be easy to find cash for the probate fee which has to be paid up front.
  3. People might be tempted to put their money in lots of very small accounts to try and enable each account to be administered individually after their death so that a Grant of Probate is not required.
  4. The current proposal is not designed to ensure that the Probate service simply pays its way.  The service currently pays its way.  This revenue raising exercise is designed to subsidise other parts of the Court and Tribunal Service.    Charging such high fees to deceased estates is probably seen by the Government as an easy target to fund other areas of the Court and Tribunal Service.

Government consultation ends on 1 April 2016 and one can only wait to see what the outcome will be.

Whatever action individuals might be prepared to take to deal with increased probate fees they should always ensure that when dealing with a professional, the professional is regulated and insured before undertaking any business with them, or handing over any money.  The advantage of using a solicitor is that solicitors are regulated by the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority and all carry insurance.  Firms of solicitors which close or merge can be tracked through the Law Society so that documents held by a former firm of solicitors are traceable in the future.

Tom Morrish

Partner

Care Home, Dementia, Living Wills, Power of Attorney, Probate

Dementia awareness

Sadly the prevalence of dementia is increasing within our ageing population. There are more cases and people are living longer with the illness. This is causing pressure on the NHS, care homes and stress for those suffering and their families.

At Morrish Solicitors our elderly client department are looking to assist those who have received a diagnosis of dementia and their families or carers. We recently attended, through a professional organisation Solicitors for the Elderly (www.solicitorsfortheelderly.com), a meeting with the Alzheimers Society to see how members of Solicitors for the Elderly could assist.

At Morrish Solicitors we are seeking to make our four offices Dementia friendly and will be joining the Dementia Action Alliance (www.dementiaaction.org.uk) We are looking to see how we can make our services more user friendly for the ageing population.

With offices in four locations around West Yorkshire Morrish Solicitors are on hand to assist. In dementia situations it is important to act early to sort out legal issues and our four solicitors are always ready to help.

Fraudulent Will Writer, Probate, Wills

14 months jail for Will-writing fraudster

The Law Society’s Law Gazette magazine this week reported a story of an unregulated Will-writer who was jailed for fraudulently charging more than 125 clients between £30 and £60 to ‘fix’ a non-existent problem with their Wills.

Walter Ventriglia, 47, of Berkshire, ran a company called ‘Legacy & Law’ as a will-writing firm. According to the report, he wrote to clients under the alias Tony Edwards to advise them that under changes to the law their Wills would become invalid unless they hired him to make the necessary amendments. Needless to say, no such changes to the laws had been made.

Ventriglia also ran what he alleged was a Will-storage company, claiming the documents were stored in a secure facility in London where in fact he kept them at his home, in an airing cupboard.

Reading Crown Court sentensed Ventriglia on 19 August after he pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading under Section 9 of the Fraud Act 2006.

For the full report by Jonathon Rayner, please see the Law Society’s report.

For further information on Wills, please see our website www.morrishsolicitors.com or you can contact our Elderly Client Services team on 0113 250 7792.

Court of Protection, Disputed Will, heir, Inherit, Inheritance tax, Legacy, Power of Attorney, Probate, Wills

Chief Ombudsman says thousands ‘ripped off’ by unregulated will writers

From the BBC’s website 18 July 2011Last updated at 02:33

Thousands of people are being ripped off by companies providing unregulated services such as will writing, claims the first Legal Ombudsman.

In his first report, Chief Ombudsman for England and Wales Adam Sampson said the most complaints he saw concerned conveyancing, family law and wills.

He called for action to be taken to ensure consumers were not left vulnerable by unregulated services.

Only a tiny fraction of legal services must be provided by a qualified lawyer.

Many others including will writing, divorce, employment and immigration can be done by unqualified and unregulated individuals and organisations.

“One service which crops up a lot is will writing. It’s a service carried out often by will-writing firms who aren’t regulated,” said Mr Sampson.

“Because of this, customers are left with little means of redress when things go wrong.

“We’ve seen similar confusion about claims management companies, with lots of consumers believing they’re getting a legal service even though most of the work is carried out by a non-authorised person. Again, we can’t help.”

‘Unregulated cowboys’The legal ombudsman was appointed in October 2010 and can only act on complaints from those using the services of qualified lawyers.

Consumer organisation Which? and the Law Society have backed the ombudsman and called for more protection for customers.

They said bundling legal services with financial services, including those offered via the internet, had posed serious dangers for consumer protection.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “As the legal-services market continues to grow in both size and complexity, it’s crucial that consumers who have paid for a legal service that’s not up to scratch know where to turn to get help.

“We want the government and regulators to wake up to the current lack of clarity and to provide a clear and straightforward route of redress for consumers.

“The arrival of a legal-services market in which consumers will, potentially, have complaints about hybrid services poses some serious questions about who they’ll be able to turn to for help.”

Des Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society for England and Wales, said: “The gap in regulation which allows unregulated cowboys to operate in areas like will writing does not just cause unfair competition to solicitors, who provide a regulated, professional service.

“It is also damaging to consumers because the unregulated providers are not insured, do not provide a compensation fund and are not covered by the Legal Ombudsman’s scheme for consumer redress.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said will writing was an important issue and that it welcomed the report.

She added the department will await the outcome of the Legal Service Board’s ongoing work.

Ends.

Want your Will handled by a professional, specialist solicitor? Please contact Tom Morrish or Charlotte Bandawe on 0113 250 7792 or Charles Clough, James Shingleton or Christina Fleming on 0113 224 8084.

Related stories:

The Law Gazette

The Legal Ombudsman’s Annual Report

heir, Inherit, Inheritance tax, Legacy, Probate, Wills

DIY Probate runs risk

News release from Solicitors For The Elderly

It is entirely possible to apply for probate and deal with an estate, without seeing a lawyer, but it’s not without risks warns legal group, Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE).

Many professionally drafted wills contain trusts to save tax, to avoid those who inherit paying care fees and to reduce the likelihood of potential disputes. SFE members have noticed an increase in ‘DIYers’ returning to them to seek advice when they have made a mistake or find the paperwork too tricky. Mrs A’s will had included a tax saving trust, but when her husband administered the estate, he paid the whole estate to himself. The solicitor was thankfully able to sort out the matter and avoid future complications occurring when Mr A eventually dies. In Mr G’s case, he sold some shares that had made a gain during the administration of his late sister’s estate and had to pay tax. If he had transferred the shares to himself first, before selling them, he could have avoided the tax.

Yorkshire Regional Co-Ordinator for SFE, Tom Morrish – a Partner at Morrish Solicitors – today said ‘People aren’t always aware of the complexities and assume probate work is straightforward. It is true that it can be, but it is just as true that sometimes it isn’t.  In all but the most straightforward cases, it is important to seek timely specialist legal advice that can actually save you money and worry.’

Many SFE members’ practices will offer to work in partnership with the deceased’s family to help and support them with the legal and technical work. As elder law specialists, members can even add value to their work, for example by identifying cases where money is owed to the estate for care funding, which should have been met by the NHS and assist in making a claim.

Ends.

heir, Inherit, Power of Attorney, Probate, Wills

Panorama expose stirs the pot

The Financial Times Adviser reports that The Will Writing Company is refuting claims made by Panorama’s broadcast last night (Monday 9 August) which exposed the lack of regulation of the willwriters industry. 

The Will Writing Company has hit back at the BBC Panorama programme that widely criticised unlicensed will-writers and a number of will-writing firms for unfair and unethical practices.

Not all will-writing companies were like those that were exposed on the programme claimed the Will Writing Company.

The documentary focused on three firms and highlighted the lack of standards that many will-writing companies subscribe to.

The Will Writing Company said it welcomed the program and as a founding member of the Institute of Professional Will Writers (IPW) since 1990 it recognised early on that proper training and ethical procedures would have to be an essential part of the industry.

It said the Panorama programme took the view that people should only go to a solicitor for will planning and should avoid professional will writers.

The Will Writing Company said solicitors actually need no personal development or qualifications in this area after university.

A member of the IPW has to demonstrate continuing professional development much the same as a financial adviser to retain their professional status.

Panorama refused to accept comment from IPW.

Tom Gormanly, managing director at The Will Writing Company, said: “Of course every industry will have people within it that will attract criticism, some wholly justified as in last night’s programme.

“But the tighter the controls and the better the training the less likelihood that anything untoward will happen.”

Mr Gormanly said his message to financial advisers was clear, not all will writers were the same and if you choose to use the service of one of them, just make sure they are a member of the IPW.

http://www.ftadviser.com/FTAdviser/Pensions/Personal/RetirementPlanning/News/article/20100810/23cc232c-a45e-11df-a0c7-00144f2af8e8/Will-Writing-Company-hits-back-at-Panorama-claims.jsp 

Here at Morrish Solicitors our Wills, Probate and Elderly Client department consists entirely of qualified solicitors who have specialist training in this particular area of law.  They each undergo set units of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Training every year and are active members of Solicitors For The Elderly, Help The Aged and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners in the region. 

Solicitors are highly regulated for many reasons, including that the bonds of trust existing between a solicitor and client must, by their nature, be above suspicion.  The Solicitors Regulation Authority ensures that solicitors meet those high standards of trust and, where they fail, are subject to strict and just retribution. 

The public, and particularly the elderly, the dying and – yes – the dead, deserve to know their trust is well placed.