Why Are Families Facing Probate Delays?

Government plans to restructure fees for probate applications have led to delays for families looking to settle their loved ones’ affairs as people rush to beat the intended deadline.

National law firm Clarke Willmott LLP says a Government proposal to increase the fixed fee of £155 (for solicitor applications) to a fee dependent on the value of the estate – which could amount to £6,000 – had backfired.

The new fees were due to come in to effect on April 1, but the relevant legislation was hit by opposition – and lack of Parliamentary time.

Carol Cummins, a consultant in the private capital team at Clarke Willmott, said: “The last-minute influx of applications from people keen to beat the deadline means that instead of waiting two to three weeks for their application to be granted people will be putting up with delays of between three to four months.

“This delay could cause significant problems in the administration of an estate. For instance, Personal Representatives (PRs) have no access to the assets in the estate until the grant is issued.

“This means, for example, that if a sale of the deceased’s property has been negotiated, exchange of contracts on that sale can’t take place until the grant is issued.

“Similarly, shares held in the deceased person’s name cannot be sold which could have serious financial implications in the event of a substantial market downturn.

“Moreover, if the PRs had to apply for a loan to pay the inheritance tax due on application for the grant, this delay will substantially lengthen the time that the loan is outstanding and the interest payable on it will be greater.”

Carol Cummins said the effect of making the increase dependent on the date of the application rather than the date of death was bound to lead to problems processing grant applications.

“Bereavement is a very stressful event and this delay in issuing the grant can only add to the distress of the deceased person’s family,” she said.

(Source: Clarke Willmott LLP)

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