On 5 Novem­ber 2018 Jus­tice Lucy Fraz­er QC MP announced the Government’s inten­tion to increase Pro­bate Court Fees. The issue was last raised in 2017 and hasti­ly dropped before the gen­er­al elec­tion in May 2017 as the move was wide­ly con­demned. Cur­rent­ly the fees are a flat rate of £215 for per­son­al appli­ca­tions, £155 if you use a Solic­i­tor and £0 for Estates that are val­ued at less than £5,000. The pro­posed fees are set out in the table below and are due to come into effect from April 2019:

Legal advice - Lawyers Wilmslow
Value of Estate £2 million+
Probate Court Fees £6,000
Value of Estate £1.6 - £2 million
Probate Court Fees £5,000
Value of Estate £500,000 - £1 million
Probate Court Fees £4,000
Value of Estate £350,000-£500,000
Probate Court Fees £750
Value of Estate £50,000-£350,000
Probate Court Fees £250
Value of Estate Less than £50,000
Probate Court Fees £0
Value of Estate Probate Court Fees
£2 million+ £6,000
£1.6 - £2 million £5,000
£500,000 - £1 million £4,000
£350,000-£500,000 £750
£50,000-£350,000 £250
Less than £50,000 £0

While the fees are con­sid­er­ably low­er than those pro­posed in 2017 (the max­i­mum fee then was £20,000), there is still no jus­ti­fi­able rea­son for the increase. The work required by the Pro­bate Reg­istry is the same regard­less of the val­ue of the Estate. The move has gen­er­at­ed wide­spread crit­i­cism and the Law Soci­ety has even deemed it increas­ing Inher­i­tance Tax by Statu­to­ry Instru­ment”. If the move is seen as a tax then it must pass through Par­lia­ment and these changes have not as the Gov­ern­ment insist it is not necessary.

The Gov­ern­ment have pre­vi­ous­ly argued that the move will mean less Estates will require a Grant of Pro­bate because the thresh­old has been increased from £5,00050,000. The real­i­ty is that most banks will release more than £5,000 with­out a Grant of Pro­bate any­way and in fact they will often release as much as £30,000 – 50,000 with­out a grant so this is a mis­lead­ing statement. 

Pro­bate Court Fees are nat­u­ral­ly paid before the grant is issued and there­fore the per­son­al rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the estate will have to find the mon­ey for the fees imme­di­ate­ly, with­out a grant. The funds are required in addi­tion to fund­ing any Inher­i­tance Tax which is also due before the Grant. It can be tricky to raise cash in an Estate, espe­cial­ly if the main asset is a house, which needs a grant before it can be sold. The Gov­ern­ment have promised that a guid­ance doc­u­ment titled Guid­ance on Ways to Pay for Pro­bate Fees” will be pub­lished before the changes come into force but we are mid-way through Feb­ru­ary and this has not yet been published. 

There seems to be lit­tle news since the ini­tial announce­ment in Novem­ber 2018 but with the changes set to hit in April, any­one wish­ing to avoid the fees should ensure that their Pro­bate appli­ca­tion is sent in the next few weeks. If you require any assis­tance in this regard please con­tact JBGass and we will pleased to help you.