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Major changes to divorce law and probate fees planned

With two key changes on the horizon concerning divorce law and probate fees, Richard Hoare, head of private client services, considers how they might affect you and your family.

Currently, couples who wish to divorce are required to either live apart for at least two years, or one must blame the other by alleging adultery or what is commonly referred to as “unreasonable behaviour”. This creates potential and unnecessary animosity at the outset of the divorce process.

No fault divorce

Our Family team at Andrew Jackson joined a national campaign several years ago aimed at bringing about a change in the law and the introduction of “no fault divorce” so as to minimise conflict between divorcing couples.

Following a consultation period last year, the Government has recently announced that no-fault divorce is to become law, meaning that couples will no longer have to apportion blame in order to end their marriages. Reports indicate that the Justice Secretary, David Gauke, will put forward a reform package to MPs ‘within months’.

Whilst this does not mean that divorce will be any easier or less painful for married couples who are parting, it will at least help to reduce unnecessary conflict between them.

Probate court fees’ hike

Some of you may be aware of another major legal change, which continues to make headlines and concerns the fees that are payable in order to obtain a grant of probate when someone dies.

Currently, a flat fee of £155 applies to all estates over £5,000 when probate is applied for by a probate practitioner. However, although it has been met with much opposition, recent indications are that the Ministry of Justice is planning a dramatic increase in fees for probate applications to £2,500 for estates valued at between £500,001 and £1 million, rising to £6,000 for estates valued at over £2 million.  All fees have to be paid before a grant of probate is issued. This means executors will have to find a way to raise funds before they are able to sell assets such as the deceased’s house.

Although the probate fee increases have been met with much opposition, it is currently proposed that they will come into force from April 2019.  If so, many people will need to take the increased fees into account when considering the future administration of their estates, as there will be a direct financial impact on estates to consider, including matters such as the immediate ability of executors to distribute cash legacies left in Wills.

If you or your family are looking for legal advice and services, Richard and his team are here to help and can offer you the opportunity to chat through how these important changes to the law might affect you. You can contact Richard directly by e-mailing or speak to one of the team today by calling 01482 325242.

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