Warning over ‘’rushing probate’ as Government faces further criticism over its controversial ‘death tax’.

By Wilkin Chapman LLP | Posted: 28 Mar 2019

Planned new ‘stealth death taxes’ due to come into force next month should only be paid on the estates of people who die after their introduction.

That is the call from leading organisation STEP, (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) and has been supported by regional legal expert Lisa-Jane Howes. Lisa-Jane, a Partner at Wilkin Chapman solicitors with more than 20 years’ experience in this field, was commenting after the latest alarm was raised over the controversial changes to probate fees.

The Government wants to see them rise from a flat fee of £215, to a scaled payment, which will increase to £6,000 for the largest estates. It is expected to affect almost 300,000 families a year.

The move has already sparked anger among some, who claim it is an unfair ‘tax’. In the face of calls for another investigation into the plan there is still no fixed date as to their introduction, which was supposed to be on Monday – April 1.

However, in anticipation of the move, experts are warning that executors trying to hurry probate through before the new charges come in – as a way of avoiding higher fees – will be penalised if they make mistakes in doing so. There have been concerns voiced nationally that this is a real danger – executors will not prepare or plan properly as they rush to dodge the deadline, although it is still not known exactly when that deadline will be.

Lisa-Jane explained how executors cannot just apply for probate and they must ensure the necessary documentation is correctly detailed, which can be time-consuming.

“There should be no short measures when it comes to such matters and yes, indeed, those who try to rush such things through and make errors as a result, will risk penalties from HMRC for incorrect Inheritance Tax accounts,” explained Lisa-Jane.

As reported STEP’s Technical Counsel Emily Deane has called on Government to alleviate this risk by simply applying the new fees to the estates of people who die after they are introduced, instead of on probate applications received on or after that date.

Lisa-Jane said: “This appears to be a very sensible option. Pressure will be growing on families who wish to avoid these significant increases in fees, but of course getting things wrong can lead to all sorts of other issues, and executors must not cut corners. This may only lead to yet more delays and possible expense.

“At the moment we are still no clearer as to when the Government plans to implement these new proposals, if indeed that will be the case and this is only serving to create more confusion,” she added.

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