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Rise in probate fees delayed following Parliament suspension

View profile for Kevin Horn
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The recent prorogation of Parliament meant that the Government’s proposed change to the basis of the calculation of the fee paid by the Executors to apply for a Grant of Probate, which proved highly controversial, could not be implemented as intended. We reported earlier this year how this proposed change appeared to have been agreed in principle, with the motion to approve the Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order scheduled for a vote in the House of Commons and an initial implementation date of April 2019 set. Kevin Horn, Private Client Partner, explains more here about the increase, why it caused such controversy, and what the future may hold for the increase.

Currently, the probate fee is a fixed amount of either £215, or £155 if you are using a solicitor to make the application for you. The new proposed fees order however would have seen a sliding scale depending on the size of the estate:

  • Estate valued up to £50,000 – exempt from probate fees
  • Estate valued between £50,000 - £300,000 - £250
  • Estate valued between £300,001 - £500,000 - £750
  • Estate valued between £500,001 - £1million - £2,500
  • Estate valued between £1,000,001 - £1.6million - £4,000
  • Estate valued between £1,600,001 - £2million - £5,000
  • Estate valued as over £2million - £6,000

The consequence of the introduction of the order would therefore have witnessed for many estates, including those of relatively modest value, a significant rise in the fee payable so it is no surprise that the change was opposed by many organisations, including the Law Society.

What is probate?

Applying for probate is the legal process that must be completed by the Executor of a Will in order to administer the estate of the person who has passed away.  Only by doing so will their assets be released and the Executor can proceed with arranging the inheritance for beneficiaries, selling any property, paying any outstanding debts etc.  If the person has died intestate, then a Grant of Letters of Administration must be applied for to enable the same. 

“The fact that this is a mandatory process for Executors and it is they who would bear the burden of the increase in the fee caused a lot of the controversy in November last year when these plans were initially discussed,” explains Kevin.  “As the administration of the estate cannot proceed without the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, this new arrangement could have left many Executors and Administrators having to finance the fee from their own resources at an emotional time when they are already dealing with the grief of losing a loved one, not to mention the other financial obligations, such as the funeral.”

Now that MPs have returned to Parliament and the business of Government has resumed, it is unclear whether the matter will be re-tabled for a vote in the current session of Parliament, delayed until the next session, kicked into the long grass or abandoned altogether. 

“The fact that the cost to the Probate Registry is the same no matter the size of the estate was another bone of contention when these plans were announced,” explains Kevin.  “In the event that they do re-appear on the agenda, The Law Society will continue with its campaign to have them rejected.  In the meantime, we would strongly advise that anyone who has to apply for probate where the estate they are administering has a value of more than £50,000 does so as soon as possible, before any further plans are announced.”

We offer a free 30 minute appointment to those who are faced with the task of applying for probate.  We understand that this can be a daunting and uncertain time and, as Executor, you will have many responsibilities not only to your family and friends but also legal responsibilities and it is vital that any legal  applications of this nature are made correctly.

To book your appointment today, contact us on 01329 222075 or email justinealexander@warnergoodman.co.uk.

Alternatively, you may find the following resources useful:

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.