Government publishes consultation on probate fees

The Government has published its consultation document on changing probate fees.

The move is intended to raise £250 million which the parliamentary under-secretary of state, Shailesh Vara says will be used to supplement ans “secure” the £700 million the Government is investing to “transform the justice and court system”.

The under-secretary states by increasing the fees, and therefore the burden on bereaved families, they will be able to reduce the burden on the taxpayer. Shailesh Vara also states the proposals will mean the Government “can still afford to preserve access to justice for all.”

The consultation states that those who cannot afford the fees without the estate may be able to access the bank accounts of the deceased in order to pay probate fees, inheritance tax and funeral costs. However no provision has been made for those who have access to insufficient cash reserves. In this instance the document simply states individuals should investigate bridging loans.

The foreword, written by the under-secretary states: “In order both to meet the Ministry of Justice’s Spending Review settlement and to secure the £700 million investment described above, we must reduce the burden of HMCTS on the taxpayer. The courts and tribunals administered by HMCTS cost £1.8 billion in 2014/15, but only £700 million was received in income. This leaves a net cost to the taxpayer of around £1.1bn in one year alone. All parts of the Ministry of Justice must contribute to the national effort to reduce the deficit and restore the government’s finances to surplus – and that means we must take further steps to bring down that cost.

“Alongside using the investment for a better courts system, the Ministry of Justice needs to play its part in reducing the deficit, and putting HMCTS’s funding on a long-term sustainable footing. We are therefore proposing changes to probate fees which would both increase income to make our courts and tribunals more sustainable and make the probate system fairer. The particular proposals in this consultation set out a new and progressive regime of fees for applications for the grant of probate.

“Our proposals would lift 30,000 estates out of paying the probate fee altogether, so that the proportion of estates paying no fee at all would rise to 57%. For higher value estates, the fee would increase in stages as the value of the estate increases. The fee would never exceed 1% of the value of the estate and in many cases it would be considerably less. Overall, these changes would raise an additional £250 million a year – a critical contribution to reducing the costs of HMCTS on the taxpayer and cutting the deficit.”

While at present fees are set at £155 for solicitors and £215 for individuals for estates over £5,000, the proposed regime will be heavily banded, with 27% of estates between £50,000 but below £300,000 paying £300. Below £500,000 the fee is £1,000; below £1 million, £4,000; below £1.6 million £8,000; below £2 million, £12,000 and for above £2 million, £20,000.

The full document can be found here

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