Probate Fees Order: An All Too Familiar Update

The Non-Contentious Probate Fees Order 2018 was once again set for a provisional hearing yesterday in the House of Commons. However, it was inevitably overlooked as more pressing governmental business took precedence.

The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, David Gauke’s, Probate Fees Bill has struggled to make it off the bench in the second half of the Parliamentary season.

On Monday 20th May 2019, only 20 remaining orders and notices sat alongside the Bill. Just a day later, outstanding Parliamentary business had increased to 24 remaining orders and notices.

Now, there are 25 notices that are unlikely to feature in the remaining summer Parliamentary programme. As outstanding business piles up, the statutory order that made such an impact when it was introduced is set to fizzle out as Parliament concludes their business for the summer recess.

Currently, three Brexit related issues, including state aid and EU regulations, EU Withdrawal Bill relating to immigration and social security and financial services and markets will climb the ladder of importance ahead of the probate fees statutory instrument.

With probate fees forced to train with the reserves and failing to appear on the remaining days in the Parliamentary calendar of business team sheet, up until July 1st, it is likely that the Non-Contentious Probate Fees Order 2018 will have to wait until the new Parliamentary season until it can limp back out onto the field of play.

The fact that Law Society officials have warned that the draft, in its current iteration, has a number of technical issues that could be exploited so that estates do not pay any fees when making an application for probate, could be a determining factor in the bills short term silencing. It is speculated that government ministers will have the summer to tinker with the document and close the faults before giving it a clean bill of health when Parliament resumes in the autumn.

If the error filled Order is laid, it cannot be amended, regardless of how minor the mistake. Immediate loopholes to the Order will present a huge headache to the Government that has already been faced with overwhelming opposition to the perceived ‘death tax’ masquerading as a ‘fee’.

When you consider that the Government will be parading its new set of candidates to take over at number 10 in the coming weeks and months, all with fresh agendas and shiny new policy ideas, the Probate Fees Bill, who made such an impact on November 5th, could even be side-lined further or shipped off on loan if its contents does not fit the new manager’s philosophy.

Do you think the Non-Contentious Probate Fees Order 2018 will be benched indefinitely? How adverse will the changes be if they do indeed come into force?