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Looking Forward: What Might We Expect in Wills & Probate in 2020?27th February 2020 Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning
As 2020 begins to pick up pace, in this blog I’d like to take this opportunity to collate some views on where the Wills & Probate sector might be headed in the coming year.
As we progress towards first post-Brexit budget, the sector may need to be braced for changes in taxation. In particular, news stories have already focused on possible reductions in the rate of Inheritance Tax to as low as 10%. For now, however, we can only wait to see if the Government chooses to prioritise such matters during what will be a hectic period in Parliament in 2020.
Probate: Centralisation and Digitisation
2019 saw the beginning of attempts to centralise the probate process, and efforts are expected to concluded in 2020. Whilst waiting times for probate have decreased towards the expected average of 4-6 weeks, reaching highs of 3 months on 2019, we would hope to see growing stability and further decreasing waiting times. In addition, 2020 has already seen an effort to increase digitisation of the probate process, with firms now able to complete probate applications through a centralised electronic system. This will have long-term benefits for efficiency of obtaining probate, but will no doubt result in teething issues whilst users adapt to the system and encounter inevitable malfunctions.
Residence Nil Rate Band
April 2020 will mark the final rise of the Residence Nil Rate Band to £175,000, which may allow married couples to pass a total of £1 million free of inheritance tax to the next generation on the second death. Further information on the Residence Nil Rate Band can be found in my colleagues Alex Streeter and Job Cobb’s blogs. From April 2021, the Residence Nil Rate Band will increase in line with inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index rates.
In 2017, the Law Commission Wills Project was created to consider reform in the preparation, execution and amendment of Wills. This would be a great shift in the Will writing sector, as much of its legislation dates back to the nineteenth century, however ambitious changes may not be proposed.
On a wider note, Assisted dying is a divisive issue close to the hearts of many and has been considered by Parliament for a number of years with another Assisted Dying Bill expected in 2020. Whilst such legislative change would not be directed specifically at the Wills and Probate sector, it would undoubtedly impact this area as those with strong views on the subject consider making expressions regarding assisted dying in their Wills.
However, with Brexit set to dominate Parliament for many more months, it may be some time before these legislative changes can be tabled.