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Practitioners warn banks against releasing large sums before grant of probate

Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) has warned that some financial institutions are releasing as much as £125,000 from estates to a deceased’s relatives without requiring a grant of probate.

SFE’s Chairman Michael Culver TEP says that, in recent years, the cash limit has risen steadily from the traditional £10,000, under pressure from bereaved families dealing with the delays and expense of probate. In 2017, UK Finance (formerly the British Bankers Association) and the Building Societies Association agreed a code of conduct on the treatment of deceased clients’ estates, including the release of necessary payments before probate. However, no definite standard limit was established, and different institutions still operate different practices.

The Building Societies Association told the Daily Mail‘s This is Money supplement that its members usually set a £15,000 limit for paying out funds without probate, although it admitted that the maximum amount ranges between £5,000 and £30,000, and depends on the merits of each case.

However, banks and building societies have reviewed their bereavement processes since the coronavirus lockdown began, because the usual approach of a face-to-face discussion with a bereaved relative is not easily done at present. Some have raised the probate limits in certain circumstances, said the Building Societies Association.

Culver says this opens the system to abuse by people falsely claiming to be an executor or administrator, perhaps by producing an out-of-date will that has since been superseded. SFE is now lobbying banks and building societies to create a universal policy on limits for releasing bank accounts after death, to prevent abuse, fraud and inheritance tax disputes that might arise if cash is wrongly distributed. ‘If there isn’t transparency around the value of money released then the declaration of estate size [to HMRC] could be inaccurate; and it could also seriously impact lawyers’ work to carry out the deceased’s wishes,’ Culver commented.

Source: STEP Journal 15 June 2020

Fogwill & Jones (Legal Services) Limited remains open during these unprecedented times with our staff working from home.  We are conducting meetings with our clients via Skype, Whatsapp, Zoom or on the telephone. 

If you would like to discuss an estate please contact Helena Grady  on (0114 2588899).  Helena Grady is a Solicitor and member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) with many years’ experience.

Please note that, although Fogwill & Jones (Legal Services) Limited operate from the same premises as Fogwill & Jones Asset Management Limited they are entirely separate businesses.  The only connection is that both are owned by Colin Fogwill. If you are a client of Fogwill & Jones Asset Management Limited you are under no obligation to instruct Fogwill & Jones (Legal Services) Limited and you may choose to instruct alternative legal advisers.