Planned rise in probate fees shelved

Probate fee rise

The controversial plans to raise the fees payable on making a grant of probate have been shelved, ahead of the general election. The plans were to increase the fees from their current level (£155 or £215, depending on whether you use a solicitor) to as much as £20,000 for the largest estates in England and Wales from May.

The Ministry of Justice has now said that there is not enough time for the legislation to go through Parliament. The Conservatives have declined to say whether the proposals will be revisited if Theresa May is elected.

What are probate fees?

When someone dies, an application must be made for Grant of Probate (if they have a Will) or Letters of Administration (if they do not). The application is made by the Deceased’s Executors or Personal Representatives, and the documentation provided allows them to deal with the Deceased’s estate. This will include paying any taxes due, discharging any debts, collecting together the Deceased’s assets and distributing the remaining funds in accordance with the Will (or the rules of intestacy if there was no Will).

Under the old fee system, a flat fee of £155 or £215 was payable for the application for probate where the estate was worth more than £5,000. However, under the new system, fees of between £300 and £20,000 would be payable, depending on the value of the estate. More details of the proposed rates can be found in our article: ‘Probate fee hike to go ahead‘.

There is no extra work involved for the relevant Probate Registry in dealing with an estate that is substantial. The proposed increase was to be introduced to deal with the additional costs of running the courts and tribunal service. However, earlier this month, a committee of MPs and peers questioned whether the increased fees were in fact legal, noting that the new charges “appear… to have the hallmarks of taxes rather than fees”.

Other changes

Although the new probate fees will not go ahead in the short term, those dealing with a bereavement will still have the blow of losing a substantial portion of their Bereavement Payments, Widowed Parent’s Allowance or Bereavement Allowance – and the Inheritance Tax allowance remains frozen until at least 2020 (See: ‘Triple finance blow for those grieving‘). However, the new Residence Nil Rate Band has provided an additional allowance for those leaving property to a direct descendant (see: ‘RNRB: New inheritance tax allowance from 6th April 2017‘).

April King Legal offers affordable probate services – call 0800 788 0500 or email us info@aprilking.co.uk to find out more. 

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