On the 18 February the Ministry of Justice published its proposal to increase probate fees to raise funds to pay for the courts and tribunals service. They say that the proposals are intended to be fair and progressive and that by raising the threshold value of estates exempt from paying any fees from £5,000 to £50,000, it will lift “some 30,000 estates out of paying any fee”.
However, the Law Gazette stated that “The rise in fees could leave beneficiaries of the most valuable estates - worth over £2m - paying £20,000, as much as 129 times more than current levels”.
The current fees are £215 for individual applications, and £155 for those applying for probate using a solicitor (a flat banded approach). Under the Ministry of Justice’s current proposals, where an estate is worth from £50,000 up to £300,000 there would be a £300 fee. Fees would then progressively increase for estates valued between £300,000 and £2 million, with estates exceeding £2 million paying fees of £20,000.
The announcement has produced a range of views. Some views support the introduction of graduated fees linked to estate value, some criticise it as another ‘tax’ which unfairly charges larger fees for larger estates when the work being carried out by the Probate Registry would be the same regardless of the size of the estate. Practical difficulties such as having significant probate fees which need to be paid before there is access to cash have also been raised.
The Ministry of Justice is currently receiving responses to its proposals until 1 April 2016.
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