The UK government has abolished plans to increase probate fees, which would have seen some families in England and Wales pay a maximum fee of £6,000 to have legal control over a deceased person’s estate worth £2m or more.

The plans would have substituted the current flat-fee approach with an ascending rate of charges relating to the size of the estate. Currently, people in England and Wales pay a £215 probate fee on estates worth more than £5,000, or £155 if hiring a solicitor to apply.

The government also intended on increasing the threshold for probate charges from £5,000 to £50,000, which would have made around 25,000 estates a year exempt from fees. However, an estimated 280,000 families would have had to pay higher charges under the new system.  This proposal has also now been scrapped.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: ‘Fees are necessary to properly fund our world-leading courts system, but we have listened carefully to concerns around changes to those charged for probate and will look at them again as part of a wider review to make sure all fees are fair and proportionate.’

President of the Law Society Simon Davis said: ‘A hike in probate fees would have been a tax on grief.

‘It is inherently unfair to expect the bereaved to fund other parts of the courts and tribunal service when they have no other option but to apply for probate.

‘In its review of court fees government should bear in mind that it is a false economy to impose charges that go beyond cost recovery. Equal access to justice is a fundamental part of the rule of law.’

Sharon Heselton, senior associate, wills, trusts and probate team added:

“At last some great news for individuals and practitioners – the uncertainty over the proposed increase has added undue pressure on the already over-stretched probate registries and has caused long delays in obtaining grants.   We strive to deal with probate and estate administration efficiently and this year has been particularly challenging and we look forward to being back to “business as usual”.

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Sharon Heselton
Principal Lawyer (Non Solicitor)

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