In a year of great upheaval and change, Her Majesty's Court & Tribunal Service (HMCTS) want to continue to roll with the zeitgeist and have proposed an update to the probate fee structure. This is currently subject to a consultation process.
There have been whispers of an update to the current fees for quite some time. There was a proposal three years ago that an updated fee structure would reflect the value of the estate being submitted for probate. At the top end of this sliding scale, it was suggested that there would be a fee of £20,000 for any estate valued over £2million. Seen by many as a stealth tax but also possibly unworkable owing to many estates being asset rich and cash poor, the idea was kicked into the long grass some time ago, after a huge outcry.
Thankfully, no one has ventured back into said long grass to retrieve that previous suggestion. These new proposals are far more modest and reflect the cost of providing the service itself and not simply as another way to fund the courts system or provide additional Government income. The fees do need an overhaul – the current system does not fund the cost of the Registry and requires public subsidies. However, it needed to be tackled in a proportionate way.
The proposal is to have a flat rate of probate application fees of £273 which HMCTS will hope raises an additional £23-25m per annum for HMCTS.
It is important that HMCTS reviews its processes often to see if they are still fit for purpose and whether they are value for money. I do not think anyone resents a slight increase in fees to cover increased costs; however, it is with a great relief that we won't have to ask Executors of estates to release tens of thousands of pounds for something which should be the same cost for everyone. The process is the same whatever the size of estate being administered, which is why the previous proposal was so galling.
The consultation process closes on 23 September 2021, so only time will tell if these new fees are implemented but please do get in touch if you wish to discuss any aspect of Estate Administration with us.