Probate Change – May 2017

Probate Change

The UK government is planning rises in probate fees according to the value of the property left by an individual in their will. This will apply to everyone with UK property and includes those Malaysians who own UK property.

The probate application through a solicitor was at £155 and personal applications, or those not through a solicitor, was £215. The current flat fee will change from May 2017 to a banding proportionate to the value of the estate as follows:

  1. £300 for estates worth more than £50,000 and up to £300,000
  2. £1,000 for estates worth more than £300,000 and up to £500,000
  3. £4,000 for estates worth more than £500,000 and up to £1 million
  4. £8,000 for estates worth more than £1m and up to £1.6 million
  5. £12,000 for estates worth more than £1.6m and up to £2 million
  6. £20,000 for estates worth more than £2 million

Not all properties need to go through probate, though. The value of the estate below which no fee is payable is rising from £5,000 to £50,000, lifting some smaller estates out of paying any fee.

Probate Procedure

On the death of the individual an application is made on form PA1 which asks a number of detailed questions requiring information of the executors, next of kin, the will (if any), etc. The questions that need to be answered may need a substantial amount of research into the deceased’s past if this is not immediately known to the Executor(s) or those entitled to a grant. The application may be made by an individual, through a solicitor or a probate practitioner i.e. notary public or barrister. An individual must apply to the Registry or sub-Registry and will have to attend at least one appointment for oath before the grant is administered to him or her. Applications through a solicitor or probate practitioner are made to the Registry or Sub-Registry and not the Probate Office. In personal applications by individuals the applicant in PA1 is required to lodge the death certificate or other allowable evidence of death as proof. A solicitor or probate officer may alternatively be satisfied as to the death of the person in question and acceptance of oath containing the date of death will be sufficient.

Reducing Probate Fees

Not every estate needs a grant. A grant may not be needed if:

  • the home is held in joint names and is passing by survivorship to the other joint owner(s). This can be the case for married couples and those in a legal civil partnership.
  • there is a joint bank or building society account. In this case, the bank may only need to see the death certificate, in order to arrange for the money to be transferred to the other joint owner. However, a grant could still be needed to access assets held in other bank accounts or insurance policies.
  • the amount held in each account was very small. You will need to check with the organisations (banks, building societies or insurance companies) involved to find out if they will release the assets without a grant. If none of the circumstances above apply, a grant may be required.

 

Also person may have altered their domicile of origin e.g UK to a domicile of choice e.g. Malaysia for many reasons including mitigation of tax i.e. by choosing a foreign country or a foreign spouse choosing the UK to benefit from the inter-spousal IHT exemption. The guidance note in PA1 clearly sees this as a potential problem area and states “You may need to seek legal advice concerning this.” An incorrect assessment of the deceased’s domicile may have consequences at a later date in terms of the tax liability arising by reason of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984.

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