On the 27 February 2017, the Law Gazette featured an article with the following headline:
“Ministry of Justice confirms hike in probate fees”
The article describes how the Ministry of Justice has confirmed a massive overhaul in probate charges, which will see some estates charged up to £20,000. From May this year, subject to parliamentary approval, the MoJ is planning to introduce a sliding scale of charges for probate fees to replace the current flat fees.
Currently the probate fee is a flat rate of £215, or £155 for those applying through a solicitor. Estates worth less than £5,000 are Exempt.
The new proposals will look at using a sliding scale with estates worth between £1.6m and £2m being charged £12,000, estates worth between £50,000 and £300,000 will pay £300. Estates below £50,000 will be exempt from charges.
The ministry said the ‘fairer, banded system’ will mean more than half of estates will pay nothing and 92% will pay no more than £1,000. However, some estates will pay more than 129 times the current level. ‘Fees are necessary to maintain an accessible, world-leading justice system which puts the needs of victims and vulnerable people first,’ the spokesperson added.
The Gazette reported in February last year, that the MoJ was planning the increases as part of its plans to raise an extra £250m a year to fund the courts and tribunal service. It added: ‘It is unfair and discriminatory to expect the bereaved to fund/subsidise other parts of the court and tribunals service.
It is widely accepted that court fees are a necessary source of funding but Probate administration is largely administrative and fees of up to £20,000 are clearly disproportionate for the service being provided.
In some cases, people may feel inclined to give away assets in their lifetime to reduce the amount their loved ones will have to pay in Probate Court fees.
If you are currently dealing with the administration of an estate the best advice would be to make the application for the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration as soon as possible to avoid this hike in Probate Court fees unless the estate is worth less than £50,000.
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