The Ministry of Justice have confirmed  that they are proceeding with an increase in probate court fees .  The probate court fee, which allows an executor to take control of distributing a deceased assets, is currently a flat fee of £215 (or £155 if the application is made via a solicitor).

From April this year a new 6 tiered system will be introduced based on the value of the deceased’s estate, with some executors  having to pay up to £6,000 in order to execute the Will. The new probate court fee structure is set to be as follows:

  • £50,000 – £300,000 : £250
  • £300,000 – £500,000 : £750
  • £500,000 – £1million : £2,500
  • £1million – £1.6 million: £4,000
  • £1.6 million- £2million: £5,000
  • £2million+ : £6,000

For estates under the £50,000 threshold there will be no probate fee payable and the government estimates that this will exempt approximately 25,000 estates each year. The government also believes that 80% of estates will not pay more than £750.

The work that the probate court undertakes when granting probate does not change dependent on the value of the estate, the process is the same for granting probate in a £50,000 estate as it is on a £2million estate. It is difficult therefore not to see the fees as a form of ‘tax’.

Certainly the new fees will outweigh any administrative costs the probate registry face when granting the application itself. However the government have advised that the income raised from the fee hike will be invested in the courts and tribunal service.

Under the current system, executors have to pay the probate fee up front before reclaiming it back from the estate, if this method continues with the new fee system, it could see an undue burden being placed on executors.  The other worry is that the increase in fees may lead people to try and reduce their estates before death, with increased gifting, which may cause them to lose some control of their estates.

Caption: Jaz Virk, Senior Associate

 

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