Estate Administration is the sorting out of what happens to an individual’s estate once they have passed away.

Probate sits within this process, and specifically refers to obtaining the Court’s permission to deal with the deceased person’s estate, by registering for a ‘Grant of Probate’.

This is carried out by the executors of the Will. If no executors are named, or there is no will, then a family member can apply for a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’.

Probate Fees to Soar

Families face paying up to £6000 to execute a will of a deceased relative, after the government this week confirmed it was pressing ahead with reforms to Probate Charges.

From April 2019 a six band Probate fee structure, will replace the flat fee of £250, or £155 if the estates are settled through a solicitor. The fee allows an executor to distribute a deceased property.

Those with estates valued between £50,000 and £300,000 will pay £250. Those with estates worth £500,000 to 1 Million pounds will pay £2,500. Those with estates worth over 2 Million pounds, will face the maximum £6000 fee, a 3,770% increase on the current cost.

This is essentially a form of taxation being proposed outside of any budget, presumably to attract less attention and security. There is no difference in the work required by the Probate Registry in respect of these estates, and it is this issue for many that reinforces a belief that this is in effect a stealth tax.

Update on Increase of Probate Fees

If you are reading this article, no doubt you may be aware of the press releases which intended new Probate fee structure to be introduced. We understand this has now been delayed indefinitely.

The substantial increased rates were planned to come into effect on the 1st April, although there has been no time for the government and parliament to agree whether they should be applied or not.

One of the side effects of this post legislation, apparently leading up to the end of March, Probate practitioners inundated the probate registry with applications to such an extent that they were unable to cope, and severe delays now occur.

We believe that it is inevitable that the court fees will eventually increase, and this will be post the Brexit mess once the government and parliament start to set out their proposals for on-going legislation.

Contested Probate Cases – Will Disputes

We act in a number of contested probate cases and will disputes. Set out below are cases that are typical of these types of matters.

Claim under the Inheritance (Provision of Family and Dependants).

The act provides for a situation where the deceased has failed to leave provision, and allows a certain class of persons to claim against the estate. We have acted on numerous occasions for settlement in these types of matters.

Validity of Will

The Wills Act 1837 provides for a formal procedure for the execution of a will. An instance where a will on the face of it appeared to be signed dated and witnessed, evidence in a recent case from witnesses, crucially showed that neither witness had actually seen the deceased make his signature. The Court concluded that the will had been incorrectly executed under The Wills Act 1837, and therefore an earlier will, in favour of a beneficiary, was held to apply by the Court.

Loss of Original Will: Copy Will

Over the course of a year we have had a number of cases similar to this, in which the original will could not be located. In these types of cases, the Probate Registry will always require a detailed affidavit from the person making the application, while the Court will also need to know who is potentially prejudiced by the copy will being admitted to probate. The affidavit support and the detail given to the Probate Registry are crucial in these situations, and we have successfully presented the information in a way to have the lost will accepted by the Probate Registry, and the estate is administered on that basis.

The application for any Grant of Representation is known as a reserved matter, and as such has to be submitted through a solicitor.

We are not solicitors, and do not hold ourselves out to be solicitors.

Lack of Capacity

Acting on behalf of a client, the deceased changed his will shortly before his death, in favour of a carer who had be-friended the deceased shortly before his death.

All the previous wills had left the entirety of the estate to another family member. Evidence was produced to show that the deceased was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The last will was a homemade will, with neither witness able to give evidence as to due execution. Medical evidence also proved the deceased was suffering from severe mental impairment, with his short-term memory severely impaired. After lengthy negotiations, a substantial figure was agreed in settlement to our client.

There are lots of other issues that can arise in respect of wills, and disputes.

Please contact us if you would like an initial opinion of any potential problem.