The death of a relative is not only usually a distressing time but it can also be a particularly confusing time with all of the things that often need to be done. Managing any estate left behind can be a minefield for anyone with various costs and processes which are alien to most of us. Costs have recently changed across a range of legal requirements. For example, in April 2014, the cost for applying for a Grant of Probate through solicitors has risen to £45 to £155, with the cost of a personal application (without the assistance of a solicitor) increasing to £215. Such costs are generally taken from the estate, so reducing the value of the Estate for the beneficiaries. It is not uncommon for beneficiaries to be advised when a will has been written and what they are to be left – it can then sometimes be a shock when they don’t receive the full amount they expected as they hadn’t considered the deduction of costs.
Estate beneficiaries, and trustees, should also bear in mind that inheritance tax (IHT) is being paid by more and more estates as increased property prices push estates over the IHT threshold. In the tax year 2014/2015 the IHT threshold remains £325,000 for individuals and £650,000 for married couples. Any estate value above this is taxable at 40%. According to online estate agency Rightmove, the average price of a detached house in Warrington is currently in excess of £290,000. It is therefore evident that it doesn’t take much for savings and other items to push an estate over the IHT threshold – the average detached house in Lymm is currently valued in excess of £430,000!
Although court costs relating to death may have increased, where individuals are deemed to not be able to make decisions for themselves it is becoming increasingly affordable to apply to the Court of Protection. The Court of Protection makes decisions and appoints deputies to protect the interests of people who lack the capacity to do so for themselves. This includes people with learning difficulties, brain injuries or dementia. Court of Protection fees are to be reduced from £400 to £220 to apply for the appointment of a Deputy for property and financial affairs matters. In Court of Protection matters solicitors fees are also capped.
Whether applying to the Court of Protection, applying for a Lasting Power of Attorney or managing an estate it is always worthwhile speaking with your solicitor at the outset to ensure that all costs have been considered and everyone understands what those costs are – nobody wants any further shocks.
Alexandra Mitchell is a Partner at Watsons Solicitors.