Probate fees increase on hold
In November 2018 the government announced that the current probate fees, of £215 or £155 when made through a solicitor, would be changing to a sliding scale that would reflect the value of the estate.
The proposed probate fee increase could see estates worth between £500,000 to £1 million paying £2,500 for a grant to be issued, which is 16 times more than what they are currently being charged. Estates of over 2 million pounds see the biggest increase and will face the highest proposed amount of £6,000.
On the other end of the scale, the threshold for estates exempt from paying fees has been lifted from £5,000 to £50,000. This means estates worth less than £50,000 will now pay nothing for a grant to be issued, meaning a saving of £215 that they pay under the current system.
This is not the first time the government has attempted to change the probate fee structure. Their initial proposal in 2016 suggested greater increases than the 2018 version, with estates worth over £2 million being charged £20,000. However due to the general election these proposed changes were put on hold. When the proposal was made again the proposed fees had been revised to the structure set out below.
Value of estate (before inheritance tax)
Estates worth up to £50,000
£50,000 – £300,000
£300,000 – £500,000
£500,000 – £1 million
£1 million – £1.6 million
£1.6 million – £2 million
Above £2 million
When the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Justice, Lucy Frazer MP, laid the revised legislation before parliament she stressed that income from these new fees will be spent on running the courts and tribunals service.
Frazer added “Fees will be set at a level to ensure that they will only be paid by those who can afford them, with all income going directly to our courts and tribunals – ensuring justice is done, and protecting victims and vulnerable people.’
Frazer made this point again in a statement made on the 5th of November 2018. “Fees are an essential element of funding an effective, modern courts and tribunals service, thereby ensuring and protecting access to justice. This includes introducing changes to our Probate Service, who offer an important service to those who are bereaved.”
In answer to concerns raised about the bereaved relatives being able to afford these new fees, Frazer has said “We are also confident these fees will never be unaffordable. The cost of the fee is recoverable from the estate and executors have several options to fund it. Moreover, the Lord Chancellor retains a power to remit a fee if he considers there are exceptional circumstances.”
The new court fee structure was set to be implemented in April 2019, subject to approval from the house of commons. However, a date has still not yet been confirmed. The fee increase will only affect estates that are subject to probate in England and Wales.