A long qualified colleague of mine recalls a time when he rarely encountered private clients with cross-border concerns. Those ‘unusual’ cases only involved just one international asset – a holiday home in Spain or France. Gone are those days. Indeed, scarce now are the days in central London private client practice when we work on client matters that have no international dimension.
In recent years we have noticed an increase in claims being brought which challenge the validity of a will. The reasons for this increase have been previously commented on by many, but the general feeling is that an increasing elderly population, an increase in the diagnosis of medical conditions such as dementia, and even perhaps a growing sense of entitlement by hopeful beneficiaries are all contributing factors.
A key promise in the Conservative Party’s manifesto prior to the last election was an increase in a married couples’ “nil rate band” (the amount they can ultimately pass to their children or others free of inheritance tax ) from £650,000 to £1 million. The Party had picked up on a growing disquiet that the nil rate band hadn’t kept up with house price increases which were pushing more and more families into the inheritance tax net. The standard nil rate band has been capped at £325,000 per person until 2021.
The government has announced that its controversial plans to increase probate fees by an considerable 12,900% have been shelved. Under the plans, the fee for applying for a grant of probate was to increase from a flat fee of £155 to up to £20,000 on an estate worth over £2 million. Payable before the process of distributing an estate can begin, the increase was set to give rise to significant problems for executors dealing with asset heavy, cash poor estates.