On the 5th of November 2018, an update on probate fees was provided by Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Ministry of Justice, Lucy Frazer QC MP. It was announced that new legislation to implement a new, banded structure of fees for a Grant of Probate (also known as Grant of Representation) has been presented before Parliament.
If the proposal is passed by the government, it will:
- Allow people to apply for a Grant of Probate online.
- Provide support for those who do not have the skills to apply digitally.
- Result in changes to the current flat fee for obtaining a Grant of Probate.
- Change the current estate value threshold from £5,000 to £50,000.
Back in February 2017, it was announced that the government planned to introduce tiered fees for obtaining a Grant of Probate which would be based on the estate value. There were a number of concerns that this would be unfair as probate fees would not be relative to the cost of the work involved. The latest announcement recognises these concerns and the probate fees have been revised so that they will never cost more than 0.5% of the estate value.
This announcement also highlights how raising the estate value threshold from £5,000 to £50,000 would annually prevent around 25,000 estates from probate fees. The proposal suggests that approximately 80% of estates will pay £750 or less in probate fees. Currently, the value of the deceased’s estate is irrelevant and individuals pay a flat fee of £215, whilst professional bodies are charged £155 for probate applications. However, the new, banded fees will start from £250 and may reach a maximum of £6,000. Any income generated from probate fees will be spent on “funding an effective, modern courts and tribunals service.”
The new system appears to be making changes in order to keep up with the digital society of today. Lucy Frazer QC MP announced that members of the public will soon be able to apply for a Grant of Probate online. However, they have recognised that not all applicants will have the skills needed to make a digital application so plan to provide support. The aim is to make it easier for individuals to make applications themselves so they do not need to instruct and pay a solicitor to do it on their behalf.
Lucy Frazer QC MP said “This new banded fee model represents a fair and more progressive way to pay for probate services compared to the current flat fee and reflects our commitment to protecting access to justice by ensuring we have a properly funded and resourced courts system. We are also confident these fees will never be unaffordable. The cost of the fee is recoverable from the estate and executors have several options to fund it. Moreover, the Lord Chancellor retains a power to remit a fee if he considers there are exceptional circumstances.”
It is expected that this proposed new system will come into force from April 2019. As always, Kings Court Trust will strive to keep you up-to-date with the latest developments.