Government hikes probate fees again

The Government has announced that probate fees will be increased by 3,721% from 1 April 2019. This a rehash of the proposal made in March 2017 which was only abandoned because a general election was called before the Government could get the proposal through Parliament. We warned at the time that the Government would look to reintroduce the proposal and they have now done so. The scale of fees will be:

Estate value Fee
£0 – £50,000 £0
£50,001 – £300,000 £250
£300,001 – £500,000 £750
£500,001 – £1,000,000 £2,500
£1,000,001 – £1,600,000 £4,000
£1,600,001 – £2,000,000 £5,000
£2,000,001 + £6,000

Although the top fee has been reduced from £20,000 to £6,000, the increase is wholly unjustified. The Probate Service already covers its costs from the present fee of £155 for applications made through solicitors. The Government is using the increased fee to subsidise other parts of the Court Service.   The press are rightly calling it a tax. The effect is that a £1 million estate left to a surviving spouse or charity, which would be exempt from inheritance tax, will now incur a payment of £2,500 to the Government.

A considerable body of legal opinion considers that an increase of this amount is not authorised by Act of Parliament and it may well be challenged in the courts. In the meantime, if you have concerns about this, please write to your MP.

We’re moving . . .

On Monday 2 July our Headington office will open in new premises at

122B London Road

Headington

Oxford

OX3 9AG

Our phone and fax numbers remain unchanged.

122B is on the corner of London Road and Windmill Road, above Hamptons estate agents. The entrance is on London Road.

Claim a Power of Attorney Refund

If you registered a Lasting Power of Attorney between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2017 you can claim a refund of part of the registration fee you paid.

The Office of the Public Guardian is a government agency and is not allowed to make a profit. Between 2013 and 2017 its fee income was more than the cost of providing the service, so it has been ordered by the Government to repay money to people who have used the service.

You have to make the claim for repayment online here. The refund will be paid into the donor’s bank account.

Christmas closing 2017

We are closed for the Christmas and New Year break until 2 January 2018.

We wish all our clients and professional colleagues a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

 

Stamp Duty exemption for first time buyers

The abolition of stamp duty land tax for first time buyers, announced in the Budget, came into effect for house purchase completions  on or after  22 November 2017.

That sounds like good news, but there are conditions attached.

You only avoid stamp duty completely if you are paying £300,000 or less for your first home.  If you pay between £300,000 and £500,000 you have to pay stamp duty at 5% on the difference between the purchase price and £300,000. You will still pay less, however, than someone who is not a first time buyer. If you pay more than £500,000 then you get no benefit at all and pay the full rate of stamp duty like everybody else.

The rules about who qualifies as a “first-time buyer” are not straight forward.

If you a single person buying just in your name and you do not own or part own another house or flat, then you are a first time buyer.

If you are buying as a couple, it is more complicated.

If you are not married or in a civil partnership, and neither of you owns or part owns another house or flat, you are first time buyers. But if one of you owns or part owns another house or flat then you are not first time buyers and you will also have to pay the 3% surcharge on second properties. You could avoid this by buying in the sole name of the one who does not own another house – if your mortgage lender is willing to lend to just one of you. The reality is that most couples need both incomes to obtain the mortgage they need, so buying in just one name will rarely be an option.

It becomes more difficult if you are married or in a civil partnership. You are not first time buyers if one of you owns another house, but married couples and civil partners cannot get round it by buying in the other spouse / partner’s name.

This is a brief summary of the new rules and you should always discuss your own situation with your conveyancing lawyer.

Probate Fees – Proposed increase abandoned by Government

The proposed increase in Probate Registry fees has become a casualty of the Prime Minister’s decison to call a general election on 8 June. The Ministry of Justice is quoted as saying that there is not enough time to get the necessary legislation through Parliament before Parliament is dissolved.

While it is good news for the time being that the fee increase (called a “death tax” by the press) is not going ahead, do not assume that it has been abandoned for good. It could well be re-introduced after the election.

Lasting Power of Attorney registration fee reduced

The Office of the Public Guardian has announced that the fee for registering a Lasting Power of Attorney has been reduced from £110 to £82 for all applications received after 1 April 2017.

Chris Wallworth commented:

This is good news for families who are facing the possibilty of dementia affecting an elderly parent. The fee has been reduced because the Office of the Public Guardian has been able to reduce the cost of providing the service and is passing the cost saving on the public. Warm words from Ministers, referred to on the OPG’s website, are in stark contrast to the Government’s attitude to Probate Registry fees

For further infomation or to set up a Lasting Power of Attorney please contact Chris Wallworth at our George Street office or Melvin Berryman at our Headington office.

Supreme Court reduces estranged daughter’s claim

Last year we reported that the claim by a daughter  who had been cut out of her mother’s Will was heading to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court issued its judgment in the case earlier this week. The Court underlined that people’s wishes in their Wills about who should or should not inherit from them must be respected and and the Courts will only depart from that in cases where there a clear need has been shown. The bar has been raised for adult children who are not disabled who wish to claim a payment from their parents’ estates.  All cases are decided on the particular facts, and in this case the money awarded to Mrs Illott was very substantially reduced.

If you wsih to discuss how this judgment might relate to your own will, please make an appointment to see our Wills specialist Chris Wallworth

1 2 3 4