Personal representatives- executors where they are appointed by a will, or administrators otherwise - are responsible for dealing with the estate of a deceased person.
Their authority to receive the assets in the estate is proved by a grant of representation. A grant of probate is one type of representation and a grant of letters of administration is another.
It is not always necessary to apply for a grant. Much depends on the size of the estate, the type of assets and whether, for example, assets are jointly owned. Our Private Client Department commonly advise on whether a grant is needed and then go on to obtain that grant on behalf of executors or administrators.
A grant is a court document and accordingly attracts court fees. At present the court fee for a grant is £155 if the application for it is made by a solicitor. It is £215 if the application for a grant is made by an individual. These fees apply to estates worth more than £5,000.
Over the last couple of years the government has sought to increase these court fees. Government proposals originally made in 2016 did not make it into law. These proposed seven fee bands with fees increasing in line with the value of an estate. Court fees were to start at £300 for estates between £50,000 and £300,000 rising to a maximum fee of £20,000 for estates worth more than £2 million. Those opposing these changes had argued that the new fees were excessive and effectively amounted to a form of taxation and that the size of the fee should not exceed the cost of delivering the service.
This month revised proposals have been announced by the government as it again seeks to generate additional fee income from fees for probate applications. Before the new proposals can become law both Houses of Parliament will need to approve them.
At the time of writing the key features of the new regime of fees now proposed for an application for a grant of probate are:
A banded structure based on the value of the estate
An increase of the estate threshold below which no fee for an application is payable from £5,000 to £50,000
Introducing fees ranging from £250 for estates worth between £50,000 and £300, 000, to £6,000 for estates worth more than £2 million
The government estimates that the revised proposals would generate £145 million in additional fee income in 2019/2020.
Our Private Client Department will be keeping a close watch over the proposals as they progress through Parliament, partaking in the consultation process as appropriate. Please contact a member of that Department should you require further information about this or would like help making an application for a grant. It is evident at this stage that should the proposals become law, for large and very large estates, speedy applications for a grant may bring about some saving of court fees.