Public Policy Update - April

April 2019
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Our Public Policy department keeps on top of changes in legislation to ensure that our advice takes these into account. We also lobby policymakers so that changes in the law may benefit consumers. Here are a few issues we have been dealing with lately.  

Probate Fee Hike Delayed

Probate is the process which enables the executor of a will to obtain legal title to the assets of the deceased, so that these may be distributed in accordance with the will. Where the will is not contested this is a simple administrative process. Currently a flat fee of £215 is payable to the Ministry of Justice for this service [1]. 

Last year the Ministry of Justice proposed that the fee should be levied according to the size of the estate. This meant that estates below £50,000 would pay nothing but those over £300,000 would see an increase on a sliding scale, with estates over £2 million charged £20,000 [2]. A public consultation decisively opposed this. The Government reviewed the fee scale and reintroduced a proposal into Parliament where estates over £300,000 would still pay progressively more rising to £6,000 for estates over £2 million [3]. This was due to be introduced for probate applications after 1 April 2019. 

Thanks to strong opposition from the Law Society, the House of Lords and from LEBC, which highlighted the unfairness of this tax on bereaved families, the fee increase has not yet been implemented. Opposition parties have now vowed to oppose it and unless the Government can gain a majority, it may not become law. At the very least its implementation will be delayed. There is no date set for a debate yet and the change cannot happen until 21 days after it is approved by Parliament. We will continue to voice our opposition to this unjustified tax on bereaved families. 

No Fault Divorce 

The Ministry of Justice has also announced a major reform to divorce law in England and Wales. The concept of fault, showing irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, will be replaced by a new system which may enable a divorce to be granted on an application by either party. It is expected that this could reduce the average time taken to 6 months. This change has been largely welcomed by family lawyers. It will require legislation to come into effect.

LEBC provides specialist advice to couples divorcing and acts as an expert witness, where pension sharing is included in the financial settlement. LEBC has warned that couples using the new quicker procedure will need to ensure that pension shares and other financial arrangements are agreed before the decree absolute is granted or risk losing some pension assets. 

Gender Pensions Gap

Women aged 65 today have around 1/5th of the pensions of the average man of 65 [4]. This is caused by career gaps, part time working and not making enough national insurance credits to obtain a full State pension. To rectify this “black hole” in the retirement savings of women, (and some men) LEBC has produced a free guide “Gender Pension Gap- A Practical Guide on How To Close It.” It is packed full of tips to help women at all stages of life to improve their financial security in retirement. To order a free copy email genderpensiongap@lebc-group.com.
 
MiFID II

The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II) arises from European law which became effective in the UK in January 2018. It is designed to make the costs and charges of retail investments more transparent to consumers. The UK financial services industry strengthened transparency and disclosure requirements from 2013, following the Financial Conduct Authority’s Retail Distribution Review. MiFID brings all EU members up to a common standard. 

It differs from the previous rules, which require disclosing actual and potential % charges levied by investment managers, platforms and advisers at the point an investment is made. In addition to this pre-sale disclosure, firms will now be required to make an annual disclosure to the consumer of all ongoing charges levied by the fund manager, platform and adviser over the previous 12 months, based on the fluctuating value of the investment over that time. The first disclosure letters are being sent out now by the investment platforms and will cover the period from 3 January 2018 to 3 January 2019. This is expected to be completed by the end of May 2019.

Where an investor has more than one platform, LEBC will also send out a consolidated statement to clients who are paying ongoing charges, showing the total of these and the separate components levied. Should you have any questions about this please email enquiries@lebc-group.com.

Kay Ingram
Director of Public Policy, LEBC

Please remember, no news or research item is a recommendation or advice to buy. LEBC Group Ltd is not responsible for accuracy and may not share the author’s views. If you are unsure of the suitability of any investment for your circumstances please contact an adviser. All investments can fall as well as rise in value so you could get back less than you invest. 

[1] https://www.gov.uk/wills-probate-inheritance/applying-for-a-grant-of-representation accessed 17/04/2019
[2] House of Commons Briefing Paper 8 April 2019, Probate Fees
[3] House of Commons Briefing Paper 8 April 2019, Probate Fees
[4] Solving Women’s Pension Deficit to Benefit All- Chartered Insurance Institute October 2018

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