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Probate fee hikes ‘may cause a surge in claims’

Executors warned to act ‘in a timely manner’

Executors are at risk of claims being brought against them by beneficiaries of estates if they delay applying for probate after the fee hike planned in April, it has been warned.

The government has given the green light for probate fees to increase, two years after deciding the proposed increase would be too punitive and putting executors at risk of claims from beneficiaries.

The probate court fee is currently £155 and is planned to rise in April to £6,000 for estates over £2m – a 3,870% increase.

The new rules would mean estates under £50,000 are exempt from the fee, while estates above this will be subject to a sliding scale based on their value.

Tax specialists at law firm Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth said the fee hike will affect ordinary people whose house prices have skyrocketed in the past two decades.

They warned there will be a surge in applications for grant of probate made in the coming weeks, but some will be too late and may even rush the process to get ahead of the fee increase, opening them up to even more scrutiny and potential claims from beneficiaries.

“There will almost definitely be a surge in probate applications because the fee increase is so big, executors should be careful about opening themselves up to claims by beneficiaries if they don’t act in a timely manner,” said Helen Clarke, partner at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth.

She warned that executors must make sure no corners are cut to reach the deadline.

“Our advice is not to delay and to get the grant of probate application in ahead of the fee hike if all of necessary information for the application to be successful is in place. If not, I’d recommend maintaining an open dialogue with the beneficiaries of the estate where possible,” Clarke added.