A major increase in the fee payable when applying for a Grant of Probate for dealing with a deceased person’s estate, has been delayed. To avoid the fee hike on behalf of their clients, probate solicitors had been busy rushing through probate applications to get them in before the expected start date of 1st April and the Probate Registries (who process the applications) have been inundated with the surge in applications.

 The fee increase, which has already been approved by a Delegated Legislation Committee, needed a House of Commons vote to bring it into effect from 1st April but it has not been possible to fit this into the House of Commons schedule due to the recent Brexit-related votes.

While the delay is a welcome reprieve and will help many bereaved families save hundreds of pounds, it is likely to be only temporary. The delay does however allow more time for lobbying MPs to vote against the fee increase, which has been described as a “stealth tax” by the Law Society. The Law Society have been actively protesting against the fee increase on the grounds that it is “a misuse of the lord chancellor’s fee-levying powers” as the new fees greatly exceed the cost to the Courts of producing a Grant of Probate.

The current probate fee when applying through a solicitor is £155 for all estates worth over £5,000 (£215 for personal applications). The proposal is to charge an increasing fee depending on the value of the property;

Value of estate                   New Probate fee
0 up to £50,000                 no fee
£50,000 – £300,000            £250
£300,000 – £500,000           £750
£500,000 – £1million           £2,500
£1 million – £1.6 million       £4000
£1.6 million – £2million       £5,000
Above £2million                  £6,000

The changes will only apply in England and Wales and not Scotland or Northern Ireland. Notice of 21 days will be given before they come into effect.  Inheritance Tax will continue to apply to estates in the usual way.

The same situation arose in 2017 when it was planned to increase the probate fees by an even greater amount – at the last minute, the fee increase was cancelled when the calling of a general election meant there was not enough Parliament time to get the new fees authorised.

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