SECOND UPDATE: On 21st April 2017 the Ministry of Justice announced that these changes would be shelved indefinitely. No doubt, with the imminent election, they do not have time to revise and pass these measures. However, at the moment the government have declined to say if the measure will be re-introduced in a future parliament.
UPDATE: On the 5th April 2017 a parliamentary committee questioned the Lord Chancellor’s ability to implement the proposed increases in probate fees because they are akin to a tax on estates which cannot be introduced by a statutory instrument.
At some point in May of 2017, and at the time of writing (30th March 2017) we still don’t know precisely when, we will witness a drastic increase in the charges levied to obtain a grant of probate or letters of administration. A grant is the crucial document obtained by personal representatives in order to collect in the deceased’s assets and sell or transfer their property. Until now the charge levied for the grant is £155 where the application is made by a solicitor or £215 where it is made by a member of the public. This charge has always been based on the actual cost to the court of administering this process. From May this will increase drastically and out of all proportion to the work involved on the part of the probate registry. A table of the proposed charges is below:
|Value of Estate||Probate Fee Payable|
|0 – £50,000||Nil|
|£50,001 – £300,000||£300|
|£300,001 – £500,000||£1,000|
|£500,001 – £1,000000||£4,000|
|£1,000,001 – £1,600,000||£8,000|
|£1,600,001 – £2,000,000||£12,000|
|£2,000,001 or more||£20,000|
Given that we will have already done all the work necessary before sending in the application for the grant, the role of the probate registry is simply to check that the details are correct. This is clearly an exercise to raise more money for the rest of the court services. I was one of the 810 respondents to the consultation last year that disagreed with their proposals to charge these fees. Only 13 respondents agreed.
For personal representatives these proposals put the cart before the horse because in the usual course of events, you cannot access the deceased’s assets before you obtain the grant. However, this fee (like inheritance tax) will need to be settled before the grant is issued.
Whether you are making a will or dealing with a deceased’s estate please contact me for advice on the way these changes will affect you or for any other related issues.