08 February 2019
Probate fees set to rise
The government’s planned introduction of a new tiered probate fee system for estates in England and Wales has taken a step closer to fruition following a parliamentary committee vote yesterday.
The House of Commons Delegated Legislation Committee voted nine to eight in favour of bringing in the new system, and shall now proceed to be voted on by the House of Commons, where it is anticipated to be approved. If so, the new fees would likely be introduced in April 2019.
The new system, which was first set out two years ago, would see the flat fee of £155 for obtaining a grant of probate with a solicitor (£215 for personal applications), replaced with fees based on the value of the deceased’s estate. The highest fee would be £6,000 for estates exceeding £2 million, with estates exceeding £1 million paying at least £4,000. An estate of between £50,000 and £300,000 would see the fee increase to £250.
The fee increase has been met with staunch opposition, as it has been viewed by many as a ‘stealth’ tax, as it looks very much like a tax but is brought in via a Statutory Instrument rather than facing full parliamentary scrutiny.
Wills, trusts and probate solicitor Thomas Bird comments:
“It is disappointing that the Committee have voted this through, albeit narrowly. 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.
"As a grant of probate is only applicable to assets which pass in accordance under the terms of your will, or the rules of intestacy if you do not have a will, some people may wish to review the way in which they hold their assets so as to minimise the probate fee on their death. However, the fee should not be the main or only reason for making such changes and so it would be important to seek professional advice before taking such steps so that all of the different options can be explored in light of individual circumstances.”
The Law Society are encouraging people to contact their local MP in order to raise concerns about the proposed increase. You can input your details using the link below to automatically find your local MP and offers a pre-drafted letter setting out objections to the probate fees increase.