It remains to be seen whether the increase in probate fees proposed by the Government earlier this year will be resurrected by the new administration, writes Aviva's Mark Cracknell.
If it is, the increase would result in a significant financial challenge for many people.
Whilst the policy remains on the backburner during this current period of uncertainty, the protection industry is uniquely placed to consider how it could help bereaved families in the event of a renewed probate fee hike proposal.
With an expected £2.5m boost to the Exchequer, it is entirely possible that the Government may revisit their probate fee plans at some future point.
It might still meet with backbench opposition and possible legal challenge unless enacted in primary legislation, but if it were to go ahead the estimate is that 98% of applicants would see an increase from a flat £215 fee to as much as £4,000.
Consultation suggested that the level of increase could result in Executors suffering financial hardship, if financial resources could not be released from the estate early or were insufficient to cover the fee.
To add to the problem, under the current model Probate will not be granted until the fee is paid, so therein lies the problem.
Life insurance providers are often in the privileged position of being amongst the first phone calls a person makes when they lose a loved one.
With this in mind the protection industry is uniquely placed to be able to help with the immediate financial stresses that many bereaved families face.
In September 2016 The Protection Distributors Group called on insurers to demonstrate their collective commitment to allow easier and faster help with funeral costs. This is something Aviva has done for many years, but what about using the same approach to advance Probate fees?
Providing both short-term financial support (for Funeral costs and Probate fees) as well as helping defy the more medium-term financial uncertainty customers face, is exactly the kind of financial resilience solution that protection insurers should provide.
Furthermore, if Estate Planning is offered by the adviser, a customer's protection policy could be written into Trust. This would allow the life insurance payment to fall outside the estate, reducing exposure to a large Probate fee.
For cases where the Trustee is also the person primarily charged with paying the Probate fee, then the receipt of life insurance payments through the Trust will provide the funds for the Trustee to pay the fee and to release the Estate.
Worryingly though, only a small percentage of cases are written into Trust.
Aviva's online Trust service is a quick and simple process that guides advisers and customers through the procedure.
Whether or not a change in Probate legislation is pursued by the Government, death and taxes will remain.
So whilst we in the protection industry have it within our gift to alleviate these additional worries for customers and help them through the necessary administration, isn't that worth doing?
Mark Cracknell is head of protection distribution at Aviva
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