House Of Lords Vote For Probate Fees Changes
The House of Lords have overwhelmingly voted against the changes to the non-contentious Probate fees bill. In a recent vote, 187 voted against declining the changes, whilst only 90 peers deemed the current system worthy of remaining in its current iteration.
Lord Marks, of Henley on Thames, commented: “That this House declines to approve the draft Order, because it would be an abuse of the fee-levying power, since the proposed increased fees substantially exceed the cost involved in making grants of probate and would amount to a tax, which should only be introduced, if at all, by primary legislation.”
Lord Beecham (Labour) has also proposed a motion to regret against the Order. He said: “so far above the actual cost of the service [it] arguably amounts to a stealth tax and, therefore, a misuse of the fee-levying power” under section 180 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014; and that this Order represents a significant move away from the principle that fees for a public service should recover the cost of providing it and no more.”
Nicola Evans, charities counsel at the law firm BDB Pitmans, said: “I hope the House of Lords gives proper scrutiny to this draft order, which has been subject to very serious criticism by both parliamentary committees tasked with reviewing it, both repeating concerns raised only a year ago.
“If passed, this damaging attempt to introduce a new probate tax by the back door would cause significant loss to the charity sector, among others, and set a dangerous precedent for future stealth taxes.”
Christina Blacklaws, The Law Society President, said:”Two parliamentary committees and now the House of Lords have expressed serious concerns about the proposed ‘stealth tax’ on probate,’ she said. ’We hope the government will reconsider and decide not to ram through these changes despite widespread opposition from parliament and those affected.”
A Ministry of Justice spokperson said: “Our system will see thousands of bereaved families paying no probate fees at all – protecting an additional 25,000 estates each year.
‘These fees have been approved by the Lords, demonstrating these changes are progressive and proportionate. Fees are vital to the effective running of our courts and tribunals, ensuring access to justice and protecting vulnerable victims.”
Although the vote implies that many influential people are in agreement that changes are desperately needed to the current probate fees amendments that will come into force in April, it has no power in halting the laws in their current form. However, it is hoped that this vote puts more pressure on the government to consider changes.
Will this vote help to make changes to the current proposal? What will these increased fees mean for cash poor estates?