Government Probate Fee Hikes to Hit Bereaved Families Hard 0

Family holds up piggy bank spilling out coins

In a controversial move, the government will be changing their official probate fees from £215 to as much as £6,000 for some bereaved families.

At the moment, families who need a grant of representation to settle the estate of someone who has died pay £215 in government probate fees, or £155 if they have professional help. Estates worth less than £5,000 are exempt.

Under the new fee structure, families settling an estate worth more than £50,000 will pay between £250 and £6,000, depending on the size of the estate.

Opponents of the new probate fees have called them a “stealth tax” that will hit vulnerable bereaved families hard.

However, the government has said that due to the higher threshold for fee payment, an extra 25,000 families each year won’t pay anything at all. 80% of those who will need to pay will face fees of £750 or less, with a maximum of 0.5% taken from any estate.

“Fair and more progressive”

In a written announcement, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Justice Lucy Frazer MP said: “This new banded fee model represents a fair and more progressive way to pay for probate services compared to the current flat fee and reflects our commitment to protecting access to justice by ensuring we have a properly funded and resourced courts system.”

She also claimed that there were “several options” for families to fund the new higher fees and those who struggle to pay may be able to apply to the Lord Chancellor to remit the cost under exceptional circumstances.

“£10 million” in charitable income lost

As well as families, the change in probate fees could also have a significant impact on charities, which often rely heavily on the ‘legacy’ money that people leave to them in wills. The Institute of Legacy Management estimates that the higher charges could cost charities as much as £10 million a year in lost income.

Matthew Lagden, chief executive of the ILM, said that “The government’s own impact assessment acknowledges that the current fees cover the average costs of making a grant of probate, so we are clear that this is a stealth tax, which will be borne in part by charities,”

“We are also very concerned that the government’s impact assessment dismisses the costs to the charity sector as ‘not expected to be substantial’, when the £10m lost to this tax would fund vital services across England and Wales.”

What are probate fees for?

When someone dies, the executor of their will (or if there’s no will, their next of kin) needs to sort out their legal and financial affairs. Their money, property, assets and belongings all need to be passed on to the right people.

To access things like bank accounts, change property deeds, or transfer shares belonging to the person who has died, a grant of representation may be needed. This is an official document that states that a person has the legal right to settle the estate.

To set the grant up, the HM Courts and Tribunals Service charges a probate fee – so called because the kind of grant of representation you get is called a grant of probate if there’s a will. It’s called a letter of administration if not.

On average, 51% of estates in England and Wales can only be settled with a grant of representation.

How are the fees changing?

The current probate fee is a flat rate of £215 charged to DIY applicants, or £155 for those using professional help. It’s the same for estates of all sizes.

The new probate fees will be based on how much the estate is worth in total:

  • <£50,000: no fee
  • £50,000 – £300,000: £250
  • £300,000 – £500,000: £750
  • £500,000 – £1 million: £2,500
  • £1 million – £1.6 million: £4,000
  • £1.6 million – £2 million: £5,000
  • £2 million or more: £6,000

When will the higher probate fees come in?

The new fee structure will apply from April 2019 on.

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Bereaved Families to Receive Funeral Expenses Payment Sooner 0

Family holds up piggy bank spilling out coins

Families in need of help with funeral costs will now receive it much sooner. The welcome move comes as a result of a change in the way the Funeral Expenses Payment is handled.

The Funeral Expenses Payment helps bereaved families on certain benefits pay for a funeral with a one-off grant. The average payment is around £1,500.

Previously, families had to have a date set for the funeral in order to apply. Now, they can simply give an approximate date, so long as the other details needed for the claim are all present and correct.

The change is expected to make getting help with funeral costs much swifter and less stressful for the 800 people a week who make a Funeral Expenses Claim.

DWP Minister Will Quince said:

These important changes will make the very difficult time of planning a funeral or cremation that bit easier for bereaved families. Helping families access Funeral Expenses Payments sooner and more quickly means they can focus on the much more important task of arranging a proper send-off for their loved one.

This update follows on from another important update to the Funeral Expenses Payment, which removed the need to submit a final invoice from a funeral director to make a claim. Instead, families can use the initial contract with the funeral director to act as proof of the funeral’s cost. This means that it’s now possible to apply for and receive a grant before the funeral takes place.

Together, the two updates are welcome news for bereaved families in need and for the funeral professionals who support them.

To find out more about the help available for funeral costs, take a look at our guide here.

We’re making Beyond free 1

Beyond mascot

At Beyond, we have been building a consumer brand for after life services since 2015.

Our mission is to overhaul a sector which has been left behind by digital progress, where the consumer has been disenfranchised of any power, choice or equity by market forces, and incumbent players desperate to maintain the status quo.

We believe that showing easily comparable online pricing for funerals is crucial to making the market fair for consumers and we’re proud that in the last 4 years, we’ve helped over 40% of funeral directors do so, (some unwillingly) on our price comparison website (PCW).

But 40% isn’t enough.

Where we can, we give back. Our digital will service was free for over a year, resulting in thousands of low-income users making wills and leaving legacy gifts to charities.

And in that vein, I am pleased to announce that today we are making our PCW entirely free for funeral directors (it has always been free for consumers).

  • All funeral directors can now maintain a profile and pricing on Beyond at no cost.
  • We will not rank any price-transparent funeral director over another. Pari Passu.
  • All website and phone enquiries will go through to the funeral director.
  • Our other services for funeral directors such as online obituaries and financing remain free

By providing this pro bono service, we hope to encourage the remaining 800 Dignity PLC, 1,000 Coop, 200 Funeral Partners and 2,000 independent funeral branches, who don’t currently show easily comparable pricing online, to take that positive step.

We urge them to take control of their profiles, to enter their pricing, edit their own business descriptions, and stand alongside the growing minority who are leading the industry away from obfuscation towards price transparency.

There’s really no legitimate reason not to.

Ian Strang

Beyond (Founder & CEO)