Probate Fee Hike U-turn

The justice Secretary Robert Buckland has reversed the government’s previous decision to introduce a probate fee increases, which were due to see families paying £6,000 in order to apply for a grant of probate.

Currently, in England and Wales, the Court charges a flat fee of £215 on estates valued at over £5000, or £155 if a solicitor is lodging the application.

The proposed changes to probate fees were due to increase in April 2020 and would have led to a scaling fee system. Under the new system, estates valued at under £50,000 would pay no fee. However, estates worth more than £2,000,000 would be required to pay probate fees of up to £6,000, marking an increase of nearly 4,000%. The changes had the potential of affecting up to 300,000 families per year.

Although the new fees were never introduced in April, the new proposals have caused a flood of probate applications in attempt to mitigate costs in March of this year. This partially caused a severe backlog in the courts which resulted in the courts taking up to 14 weeks to process grant of probate applications, up for its usual timescale of 2-3 weeks.

These controversial plans were introduced by Teresa May as a means of funding improvements to HM Courts and Tribunal Service. The new charges would have generated an estimated £185,000,000 to fund the court system. However, it has been argued that the new scaling fees would not be reflective of the courts administrative costs. In particular, the fees are intended to fund parts of the court service which deals with matters other than probate.

The President of the Law Society Simon Davis has stated that ‘it is inherently unfair to expect the bereaved to fund other parts of the courts and tribunal service when they have no other option but to apply for probate.”

Kay Ingram, director of public policy at LEBC has stated that “We understand the courts have to be paid for but lumping that cost on bereaved families was an unfair burden and we are pleased that the government have listened.”

In some respects, the new proposals are more lenient than the previous proposals, especially towards the lower end of the scale. However, challenges to the government’s proposals were made due to the charge structure resembling a tax.

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