The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has outlined plans to align the fees for Grants of Probate to cost recovery, stating that the current fees do not cover the cost of running the service. The proposal outlines that the probate fee in England and Wales would increase from the current £155 for probate professionals and £215 for personal applicants to one standard fee of £273 for both professionals and individuals.
The increase in probate fees is due to come in from early 2022, subject to the outcome of the consultation. For estates that are below £5,000, it would still be free to use the service as they would continue to be exempt from paying a fee.
Within the proposal for reform, Chris Philip, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, states that the increase in fees is proposed to achieve the following three key aims:
- Remove the discrepancies of fees between professionals and individuals upon application to ensure all users are charged the same fee
- Eliminate the public subsidy from taxpayers for the probate application process as it currently costs Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) more to process applications than the fees it receives
- Raise crucial income for HMCTS which is estimated to generate an additional £23-25million annually for the Courts and Tribunals Service
The MoJ has launched a consultation for users of the probate service, the legal industry, the advice sector, the judiciary, and anyone with an interest in the family court system. The consultation, which is running from 8 July 2021 to 23 September 2021, aims to seek views on the proposal to increase the probate application cost to a single flat fee of £273.
Within the consultation they have included a questionnaire and are welcoming responses to three questions that will help them determine:
- Whether people agree with making the fee the same for all users
- Whether people agree with increasing the fee to recover the cost of providing the service
- If any modifications should be considered to mitigate any impact that may affect those with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010
From initial feedback from those working in the probate industry, many believe the fee should remain lower for experienced professionals who are more likely to correctly submit a Grant application. In these instances, HMCTS will probably have less work to do as the application process will generally be smoother due to fewer errors in applications.
Previous attempts to raise probate fees
This is not the first time that the MoJ has proposed increasing probate fees. Between 2016 and 2019, the government suggested dramatically increasing probate fees and introducing a tiered fee system based on the value of the Deceased’s estate before Inheritance Tax. In 2019, the government withdrew the final proposal where tiered fees could have ranged from £250 up to £6,000 based on the value of the estate.
This latest proposal seems to be much fairer than previous proposals and aims to make the service affordable for all parties. Chris Philip, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, said: “I hope it is clear that this Government has listened to the previous concerns of stakeholders, and has proposed a fair and proportionate approach to funding an important service, whilst reducing the burden on the taxpayer.”
The 'Proposal for Reform: Aligning the Fees for Grants of Probate to Cost Recovery' released by the Ministry of Justice is available here.
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