18 February 2019
An open letter to MPs on the probate fee rise
RE: Stop the probate stealth tax
I am writing to express concern on the Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order 2018 and to ask you to vote against this measure when it is brought to a vote in the House of Commons.
Currently the fee required to issue a grant of probate is a flat fee of £215 (or £155 if done by a solicitor). This fee is intended to cover administrative costs. However, under the new proposals put forward by the Ministry of Justice, this will be replaced by a sliding scale of fees ranging from £250 to £6,000 depending on the value of the estate. This places an excessive and disproportionate financial burden on bereaved families, who are already required to pay inheritance tax on the value of inherited estates.
The increase could see many families struggling to pay the large fees, particularly in cases where the deceased’s house is their main asset and possibly cash assets have run low. House prices in the South East will see many estates pushed into the higher tiers of fees.
The Law Society’s assessment of the proposal found that it amounts to a stealth tax and a misuse of the Lord Chancellor’s fee-levying power – a position that is shared by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, and the House of Lords. Imposing a tax through regulations subverts the established constitutional convention that only Parliament can approve a new tax through primary legislation.
It is unfair to expect the bereaved to fund or subsidise other parts of the courts and tribunals service, particularly in circumstances where they have no other options but to use the probate service.
For these reasons, I urge you to vote against the Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order when it is brought to a vote in the House of Commons.
Lucy Wood, partner and leader of wills, trusts and probate practice, B P Collins LLP
To write to your MP to raise concerns about the proposed rise in fees, visit the Law Society website.