Proposed change in Probate fees
In 2016, only two years ago, the Government were on the verge of introducing a new fee structure for Probate applications. These also applied to applications for Grants of Letters of Administration (appropriate in cases of intestacy where a person dies without making a Will). At the time, there was considerable consternation over proposals to hike the Probate fees from the current level of £215 (across the board) or £155 if applying through a Solicitor to a maximum of £20,000 for estates valued at over £2,000,000. The proposals would have seen the Probate fees for estates valued at between £300,000 and £500,000 increased to £1,000. Many estates are valued within those brackets.
Two years ago the legality of the scheme was called into question but the proposals were put on hold anyway by the General Election.
Similar proposals have now been placed back on the table by the Ministry of Justice. The fee increases have been reduced but are still very high, with fees graded on a scale from £250 for estates worth between £50,000 and £300,000 rising to £6,000 for a £2,000,000 estate.
Many families will find it hard to find the necessary cash to pay these fees at a time when they are already under stress due to bereavement and when funds in the estate cannot yet be accessed because there has been no Grant of Probate.
The Ministry of Justice have as good as admitted that the fee increases are designed to subsidise the Court service as a whole. In this way bereaved families will effectively be subsidising the Civil and Criminal Courts. Many of these families will also be paying hefty Inheritance Tax bills.
There is likely to be a temptation for those with all but the smallest estates to reduce the size of those estates, perhaps by taking advantage of Trust arrangements. Many providers of non-regulated legal services advertise the availability of such schemes. Whilst there may be advantages to be gained from taking such steps, it is as well to advise caution. It is always best to seek advice from a Solicitor or other qualified Lawyer.
In 2016 there was a rush to beat the clock and to try to submit Probate applications before the new fees became “live”. In the event this proved to be unnecessary. Once again the clock may soon be ticking and it is as well to keep abreast of the news on this topic. If a family member or close friend has recently died, it is important that the estate should be administered without undue delay as a precaution against falling foul of the new fee structure. If in doubt, seek legal advice.
Proposed New Fees (from April 2019)
Value of Estate (£) New Fee (£)
Up to £50,000 – £0.00
£50,001 – £300,000 – £250.00
£300,001 – £500,000 – £750.00
£500,001 – £1m – £2,500.00
Above £1m – £1.6m – £4,000.00
Above £1.6m – £2m – £5,000.00
Above £2m – £6,000.00
If you require additional advice contact our Probate team on 01270 212000 or 01270 610300 or contact us via email here today to arrange a free, confidential and no obligation appointment to discuss with one of our solicitors any issues which you may have.