I am not a Daily Mail reader, as a general rule – nor a supporter of Rees-Mogg.
But the new probate fees will cost many ordinary people a lot of hurt, and I think they are just not aware of the changes. The consultation on the rise in fees was met with an overwhelming about of negative feedback, but was totally ignored.
The statement that there will be many estates lifted out of the need for getting a grant of probate by this measure verges on the disingenuous – most estates with a value of less than £50,000 do not pay for a grant of probate: in most cases, banks and building societies are prepared to give money to the executors of an estate with almost distressingly little checking – it seems easier to get money out of an account for a deceased person than it is to register a power of attorney.
The problem is that it affects people who would not have expected to pay inheritance tax, and who might have simple wills or not even thought about their wills for a long time – those people leaving everything to their spouse, or to charity, on the basis that there was no tax to pay so there was no need to do anything really. The introduction of the Transferrable Nil Rate Band and the Transferrable Residential Nil Rate Band have done a lot to perpetuate this theory – that unless you have over £650,000 (or now on a sliding scale up to £1 million for deaths occurring in 2020 onwards) you can leave all you have to a spouse with no worries.
But not now – not only do the smallest estates pay almost double the original fee of £155 (starting at £300), but those “ordinary families” with houses and a few savings (coming to, say £550K, will be caught.
Woe betide those who have no cash, but everything in investments. Or those with most of the money tied up in the farm or in a business when they die – somehow, money has to be found. The maximum fee of £20,000 just for assets to pass between spouses is eyewatering, to say the least.
There’s a petition, and of course, you can write to your MP to protest – unless there is a protest of some description, these fees will come in from as early as 1 May. To say that everyone is on hold to the Inland Revenue to get their forms pushed through ASAP is an understatement – the probate registry has sent out three information notices already on the subject to the tune of “don’t panic Mr Mannering!”