25 September 2019
The Prime Minister’s prorogation of parliament has been declared unlawful by the Supreme Court. Lady Hale said in the court’s decision that Parliament had effectively not been prorogued which means that the decision to prorogue was null and void and had no effect. This means that parliament will now be able to address legislation pending in the current session.
This legislation includes the draft Non-contentious Probate (Fees) Order 2018. Currently the court fees are payable for grants of probate and other grants of representation are £155, when the application is made by a solicitor, or £215 for a personal application. The Order will replace these fees with a scale of fees based on the value of the estate. For smaller estates up to £50,000 there will be no fee but for estates above £2m the proposed fee will be £6,000. This means that for estates up to £50,000 it may make financial sense to delay making a grant for representation. With all larger estates, applications for probate should be made as soon as possible. Otherwise, much higher fees than are now payable may become due. Executors in the early stages of an estate administration should review their position as they could be criticized by beneficiaries who lose out through the introduction of these significantly higher fees.
The Divorce Dissolution and Separation Bill 2017-19 was introduced in the House of Commons on 13th June 2019. The effect of the bill is to remove conflict from the divorce process. It will no longer be possible to contest a divorce. Under the present law, a person applying for a divorce must prove to the court two things. One of these is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The other is that the reason for the breakdown is one of the following five; adultery, unreasonable behavior or desertion by the other party to the marriage; two years’ separation with the consent of the other party of the marriage, or five years’ separation. Under the bill, it will no longer be necessary to cite a ground for the divorce. A statement by the applicant that the marriage has irretrievably broken down will be taken as conclusive evidence to that effect. The timeframe in which a divorce may occur is reduced but will still take a minimum of six months from start to finish.
In view of current political uncertainty, it remains to be seen if Parliament progresses these particular items of legislation any time soon.