Probate Fees – An Update

This has been a challenging year for probate solicitors and executors, with uncertainty caused by the proposed changes to probate fees, and long delays at the probate registry.  It is important for probate solicitors and executors to keep abreast of what is happening, as all parties involved in an estate will need to be kept aware of the likely timescales and costs.  In this article, Eleanor Evans, partner at Hugh James, comments on the current position. 

Increase to fees for copy grants of probate

Fees for obtaining court-sealed copies of grants of probate increased on 23 July 2019 from £0.50 to £1.50.  When dealing with a deceased person’s estate, it is usually necessary to obtain a court-sealed copy grant of probate to provide to each asset holder (e.g. banks, building societies, insurance companies etc), so this change will mean slightly more is payable to the court when probate applications are made by executors or probate solicitors.

The planned probate fees increase – what is happening?

Plans to substantially increase probate fees from a flat £155 (for solicitors) or £215 (for lay applicants), to a sliding scale of £250 to £6,000, depending on the value of the estate, were due to take effect in April 2019.

These plans are yet to take effect, as parliament has not had time to debate and pass the probate fees order (the legislation required to give effect to the change).  As parliament has now entered its summer recess, the probate fees order will not be debated or passed until after parliament returns on 3 September 2019.  Once the order is passed (and it is difficult to know when this is likely to happen), it will be a further 21 days until the new fee scale actually comes into effect.

A surge in probate applications leading up to April 2019, when it was thought the fee changes would take effect, and IT problems at the probate registries, have led to severe backlogs in grants of probate being issued . Executors and probate solicitors are continuing to experience delays of up to eight to twelve weeks, whereas previously grants took around two weeks to issue. This is causing various difficulties, including delays in estate creditors receiving payment, problems with probate property sales, and delays in estate beneficiaries receiving their legacies – this is particularly problematic for charity beneficiaries who depend on legacy income.

Whilst the court service has indicated that it hopes the delays will be resolved by the end of the summer, it is possible that another influx of applications may be experienced once the probate fees order is passed.  This could give rise to further delays.

Hugh James will continue to provide updates on both the changes to probate fees, and the delays at the probate registry.

By Eleanor Evans, Partner at Hugh James
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