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Press Comment: Technology upgrades for probate and tax simplification are sensible but bittersweet


If you are covering today’s discussion paper from the OTS  exploring whether tax simplification will still be needed as technology advances or the MoJ announcement that the probate process will now be available to be completed online, please see the following comments from Rachael Griffin, tax and financial planning expert at Quilter:

Rachael GriffinOTS comment

Simplification seems to be a buzzword in government these days, between ISA simplification, IHT simplification and now tax simplification through technology. This is no bad thing as layer upon layer of tax changes over the past number of years has built a cake that is verging on toppling over. However, the crucial element here is that all the simplification initiatives join up and do not add yet another complex layer.

In principle automatically giving adults a personal tax account is a sensible idea, but as with everything there will be kinks that need to be worked out. For instance, while a personal tax account gives people the ability to do all sorts of activities including checking state pension and claim tax refunds, just giving them an account doesn’t guarantee they will know or engage with the tools it provides.

As the OTS acknowledges, technology is a double-edged sword as it presents opportunities to make life easier but also comes with risks. It is therefore encouraging they are continuing to review the impact, particularly on vulnerable customers.

Probate comment

“In an age where everyone’s lives are touched by technology every day, it only seems right that technology also speeds up the probate process after someone’s death.  Particularly since on average, probate takes between six to nine months to complete and can take up to eighty working hours. Today’s announcement that people will now be able to apply, pay and swear a statement of truth all online finally brings this process in line with modernity. It aligns with the government’s ambition to make tax completely digital and hopefully goes some way to simplifying this complex area.

“However, with increased simplicity, you would hope the process becomes more cost efficient. At the end of last year the MoJ essentially introduced a stealth tax by  doing away with the flat rate probate fee of £215 or (£155 if using a solicitor) and implementing a new tiered charging structure meaning those who have a larger estate could face up to a £6,000 fee. If the MoJ want to use a fee hike to pay for developments within their department it must go through proper parliamentary rigour and be considered as an additional tax.    

“With property prices at historically high levels, a number of estates will suffer with this new charge. However, using trusts can help reduce the value of an estate for inheritance tax purposes, meaning a lower charge will apply. People concerned about how beneficiaries will pay the probate fees could leave sufficient funds in a life insurance policy, and provided the policy is written in trust, it can be accessed immediately on death, without the need for probate.”

For more information contact

Kathleen Gallagher023 8072 629307990
Alex Berry023 8072 626007741

Notes to Editors:

About Quilter plc:

Quilter plc is a leading wealth management business in the UK and internationally, helping to create prosperity for the generations of today and tomorrow.

Quilter plc oversees £95.3 billion in customer investments (as at 31 March 2020).

It has an adviser and customer offering spanning: financial advice; investment platforms; multi-asset investment solutions; and discretionary fund management.

The business is comprised of two segments: Advice and Wealth Management and Wealth Platforms.

Advice and Wealth Management encompasses the financial advice business, Quilter Financial Planning; the discretionary fund management business, Quilter Cheviot; and Quilter Investors, the Multi-asset investment solutions business.

Wealth Platforms includes Old Mutual Wealth UK platform and Quilter International, including AAM Advisory in Singapore.

The Old Mutual Wealth Heritage life assurance business was acquired by ReAssure Group Plc on 2 January 2020.

Since its IPO in June 2018, Quilter plc’s businesses have progressively rebranded to Quilter, as follows: 

  • Quilter Financial Planning (previously Intrinsic)
  • Quilter Private Client Advisers (previously Old Mutual Wealth Private Client Advisers)
  • Quilter Financial Advisers (previously Charles Derby Group)
  • Quilter Financial Adviser School
  • Quilter Cheviot
  • Quilter Investors
  • Old Mutual Wealth (becoming Quilter Investment Platform)
  • Quilter International (previously Old Mutual International)

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