Probate fee increase cancelled
The Government has scrapped plans to introduce the controversial new fee scale, saying that Theresa May’s recent decision to call a snap general election means that there is insufficient time to bring these changes into force.
When is a probate fee payable? When someone dies, before the people dealing with their affairs can access the deceased’s assets, they must obtain a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration. This requires an application to the Probate Registry. The fee charged for the application of the Grant is currently set at a flat rate of £155 if the application is made by a solicitor and £215 if the application is made by an individual.
The proposal was to increase the fee on a sliding scale based on the value of the estate (see chart here) with the stated aim of helping to fund the modernisation of the courts and tribunal service. However, these plans were heavily criticised as being a form of taxation on estates.
Despite strong opposition and an argument that the mechanism being used to implement the change was inappropriate, the House of Commons Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments had voted in favour of the proposed increase the evening before a decision was made to scrap the plans altogether.
With the election approaching, the focus for the Government has shifted but it is noteworthy that a senior Conservative official could not confirm or deny whether the fees would be brought back if Theresa May is re-elected.
So while this does not necessarily mean an end to the proposals, it does provide some respite before 8 June. If you are in the early stages of dealing with someone’s estate following their death, you should still be aware of the possibility of an increase in fees but you will have extra time to make an application under the current regime if this would be preferable.
Our specialist teams can advise you on what you need to do to submit an application before any possible increase in fees. They can also advise on ways to mitigate the impact potential future fee increases as part of their work in reviewing your Wills and succession planning.
Update – October 2017
The probate fee increase has been postponed indefinitely. However, it is worth moving forward without delay on high value probates as Parliament could still pass the legislation enforcing the fee increase. Any increase will take effect 21 days after the legislation is passed. At present the flat fee of £215 for all estates over £5,000 (or £155 for those applying through a solicitor) will continue to apply.