Probate fee increase narrowly passed

20/02/2019

A Parliamentary Committee voted to increase probate fees by a narrow margin of nine votes against eight this month. The change will now be put before the House of Commons for final approval, but barring a majority of objections it will be passed and come into force in April this year.

Probate is usually needed to administer someone’s estate after they have passed away. Currently the Court charges a flat fee of £215 if an individual is applying or £155 if a solicitor makes the application.

The new fee structure will be based on a sliding scale depending on the value of the estate, and it has been dubbed by many as a “stealth tax”. Through Parliamentary Committees, the Lord Chancellor is empowered to review charges for government services (such as court fees) and make changes accordingly. However, they are not empowered to introduce taxes, which must be subjected to full Parliamentary scrutiny. Unsurprisingly, this substantial increase has sparked a huge amount of concern about whether this amounts to an abuse of power by the Lord Chancellor.

The fourteenth Delegated Legislation Committee considered the case for the statutory instrument that will change the current non-contentious probate fees from a fixed amount to a sliding scale. The committee voted in the proposed changes to probate fees by eight votes to nine.

This was the final stage in the process that started on November 5th last year and will mean that the fees will increase as proposed.

Whilst the Lords, various charitable organisations and The Law Society stand united in their opposition of the proposed fee amendments, the decision today will mean that probate fees will adopt the new structure in April this year.

At present, any estate valued at less than £5,000 is exempt from the probate fee altogether, and the current proposal is that this threshold will be increased so that all estates under £50,000 will now be exempt. However, for estates that exceed this threshold they will be charged in accordance with the table below:

​Value of Estate​New Probate Fee
​Less than £50,000​£0​​
​£50,000 – £300,000​£250
​£300,000 – £500,000​£750
​£500,000 – £1m​£2,500
​£1m – £1.6m​£4,000
​£1.6m – £2m​£5,000
​Above £2m​£6,000

MORE INFORMATION

​It is expected this new fee structure will be implemented in April 2019 and full details of the government proposals can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/announcement-on-probate-fees

In view of this substantial increase, it would be advisable to act quickly in dealing with probate following the death of a loved one. If you need any help or guidance please contact our Private Client Team who can arrange a free initial probate consultation. This article was written by Chris Dickinson, an Associate at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of February 2019.

20/02/2019

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