Lights burning into the evening in London’s Temple District may not be due to late night appraisals of personal assistants. They could be signs of executors sweating blood to avoid the £6,000 probate stealth tax, fee, or whatever you call it apparently kicking in next month.
If those lawyers miss the deadline, then beneficiaries could sue them for the difference from the current flat rate of £215. However if they make probate mistakes they could be up for more, as website ‘This is Money’ warned on 21 March, 2019.
The Devil You Do, the Devil You Don’t
Prosecutorial attorneys delight in skewering witnesses on the horns of a dilemma. This time we may see members of the legal fraternity in a trap with no way out. There has been a surge in applications for probate by attorneys since it became clear the government will apparently ram the new deal through.
They need to be careful not to rush things to avoid the 2,700% increase in charges, without earning a penny more for their trouble.
If You Are an Executor, You Could be in Poo Too
You don’t need a lawyer to distribute an estate. However if you do not, you run the risk of personal liability for any losses that might have been avoided on your watch.
You could become embroiled in a lawsuit with your beloved family, without the advantage of the umbrella insurance protecting lawyers.
However, you might be able to succeed with a counter suit if you were the major beneficiary unexpectedly loaded with new wealth. Money always seems to make a difference the way court cases go.
Worse Still We Don’t Know When the Axe Will Fall
That’s the craziest thing about the new probate legislation. The opposition is opposing the law in Parliament because of the vocabulary spat, although the government seems in a determined mood given persistence over Brexit.
The target is still an unknown day in April plus 21 days grace for public employees to get the paperwork in place. Those doughty clerks could be diverted to write new guidelines stacking higher than the Tower of London after Brexit. Who knows?
Meanwhile Opposition to the Probate Raiding Party Grows
The parliamentary spat is over whether the new fees are actually a ‘tax on wealth’ which is something arch conservatives might prefer not to be remembered for.
Fees are traditionally a flat rate, whereas the new probate charge is on a sliding scale up to a maximum £6,000. This is causing ‘threats of near riots’ in wealthy Knightsbridge, Chelsea and Kensington.
However experts are still cautioning executors against panic. A tax partner of a leading UK law firm warns against ‘cutting corners’ to ram a probate application through, only to discover later they did not have all the information at the time.
To add to the confusion Brexit could hold the statutory instrument up in parliament for months while our representatives squabble over more weighty matters.
If you were thinking UK probate law was a choreographed set piece you might need to reconsider. The devil you do, the devil you don’t.