Probate is rising
Probate is the legal permission you need to administer the estate of someone who’s died, and from next April the cost of obtaining it is set to soar for many people.
Currently, you have to pay the government £215 to apply for probate, or £155 if you’re making an application via a solicitor. There’s nothing to pay if the estate is worth less than £5,000.
Under a new proposal from the Ministry of Justice, which oversees the probate system, the threshold will be raised from £5,000 to £50,000 in England and Wales.
That sounds like good news until you consider how much house prices have risen in recent years. Any estate that includes a property is likely to be over the £50,000 limit.
If the proposals become law, you’ll pay a fee of £250 for estates worth between £50,000 and £300,000. Above this amount, the fee will rise in bands. You’ll have a maximum of £6,000 to pay if the estate is worth £2 million or more.
A grant of probate enables you to deal with assets in an estate such as bank accounts and property. This includes clearing debts and passing on items to the deceased’s descendants and friends according to the instructions in their will.
Probate is a fee you have to pay up front. Although you will be able to claim this fee back from the estate, you’ll have to pay it by dipping into your own funds or taking out a loan.
Sometimes people encounter problems because you can’t sell a property until probate has been completed. Until then, you’ll be responsible for paying expenses such as service charges and bills.
What can I do?
Beyond the price rises, the government is proposing to let you apply for the grant of probate online and access digital support if you need help. The intention is to give you confidence to deal with probate without paying for the services of a solicitor.
Another way of reducing costs is to encourage your friends and family to get a will drawn up by a professional will writer. It’s far more cost effective than the prices typically charged by high street solicitors. It’s one way of saving money when the new probate price rise comes into effect.