Plans to increase Probate Fees scrapped

22 October 2019

Alison Morris (Partner) and Emma Litchfield (Solicitor) comment on recent news that there will be no increase in probate fees: 

"We are pleased to see that the Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has scrapped the plans proposed by the government earlier this year to dramatically increase probate fees. 

The proposed increases, which were to be on a sliding scale dependent on the value of the estate, were seen by many as a stealth tax. Given that there is no additional work required to issue a grant of probate on a large estate than on a small one, the proposals were considered an unfair burden on bereaved families to cover shortfalls elsewhere in the courts system. The plans were met with great opposition from across the legal sector and so we welcome the Justice Secretary's decision. 

Had the increases gone ahead there were legitimate concerns that people may have taken drastic measures to avoid the need to apply for probate by putting assets into joint names or into trust. This in turn would have increased the potential for financial abuse. For charities who rely on legacy income this would have meant a reduction in the amount they received as the higher fee would have been paid from the estate. 

When the government first announced the increase earlier this year the probate registries were hit by a deluge of applications by personal representatives making their applications before the new fees came in. As a result we have experienced significant delays this year in receiving grants. The worst wait times experienced by WIlsons have ranged from 3 to 7 months. 

A recent article in the Daily Mail implies that, despite current plans being scrapped, the government's review of court fees is not complete. One recent change which has crept in is the cost of each sealed copy of the grant. Until very recently the courts charged 50p per additional copy but now the cost is £1.50, an increase of 200%. Whether there are more changes to come in the future therefore remains to be seen."

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