A controversial increase in probate application fees has moved a step closer to being introduced, after being narrowly approved at a parliamentary committee hearing earlier this month. The fee, which is currently £155 when using a solicitor and £215 when people apply directly, will now be applied on a sliding scale according to the value of the estate, with the highest fee capped at £6,000. The new fees will begin in April 2019 for all applications for grants from that date regardless of the date of death.
Although this increase, dubbed a “stealth tax”, is due to be scrutinised again by the House of Commons in the near future, it is likely that the new fees will be introduced from April. The changes are projected to add an additional £185 million per year to the Ministry of Justice coffers. The fees will far exceed the costs of the whole probate court service – it would seem bereaved families are being asked to pay for other parts of the court system – there is a dark irony here where victim’s of crime may, in effect, be part funding the criminal courts.
These new fees seem manifestly unfair and unjustified given that the work involved for the probate court on an application for a grant of probate does not increase in relation to the value of the estate.
The Labour party is believed to be preparing to object to the proposals during its final stage in the House of Commons. However, with the current Brexit wranglings taking most of the limelight and column inches, it may be the case that these unfair changes will just slip in through the back door.
If you would like to discuss how this may affect you please contact our Wills, trust and probate team who can advise you on how the proposed changes apply to your situation.