Partner Rita Bhargava in the Russell-Cooke private client team is currently playing a significant role in the reform of inheritance tax laws and probate fees in England and Wales.
In November 2018, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice Lucy Frazer QC MP announced an increase in probate fees. From April 2019, fees in England and Wales will now be paid on a sliding scale. From the current rate of £150 they will be increasing to a maximum of £6,000 depending on the value of the estate. The potential impact on beneficiaries is huge.
Rita currently acts as Vice Chair of STEP England and Wales. STEP, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, is the worldwide professional association for professionals dealing with family inheritance and succession planning. STEP helps to improve public understanding of the issues families face in this area, promotes education and standards among its members and lobbies the Government on relevant issues, including probate fees and inheritance tax reform.
In this capacity, Rita has been invited to the Ministry of Justice to discuss the 'proposed probate fee increase, implementation and the consequences of it'.
In addition, Rita attended the House of Commons in January 2019 for the first meeting as part of an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) to review and revise the Laws on Inheritance Tax (IHT). This is the first time the Government has been open to reviewing IHT since it was renamed and overhauled in 1986. While there have been amendments and additions, there has not been a comprehensive review of it since then. The APPG consists of MPs from all three major parties, eminent barristers and solicitors as well as representation from HMRC.
Rita Bhargava says: "Inheritance tax in this country has remained unchanged for over 30 years. The fact that reform is being consulted on is good news not only for those who are planning their estates and their beneficiaries but also for the professionals advising them. The proposed change in probate fees is hugely unpopular as it will impose a significant additional financial burden on so many more families. I am privileged to be in a position to influence the direction of the reforms and am delighted to be given this opportunity, building on the work done by our Senior Partner John Gould in 2017 when he advised STEP on the legality of the previous suggested probate fee reforms. That resulted in a delay of two years and a 50% reduction in the fee – let's hope the current consultations yield an even more positive result."