What is happening with probate fees?

Rebecca Parr

Despite plans being dropped in 2017 to increase probate fees, the Ministry of Justice revealed at the end of 2018 that they will be pressing ahead with the increase in fees, which is now proposed to come into force in April 2019.

At present, the fees for applying for a grant of probat are £215, or £155 if you apply through a solicitor. Estates worth less than £5,000 being exempt.

When the proposed changes are introduced, the fees will be calculated on a sliding scale:

  • Estates worth up to £50,000 will not be charged anything for applications for probate;
  • For estates worth between £50,000 and £300,000 a fee of £250 will have to be paid; and
  • Estates worth in excess of £2 million will attract a fee of £6,000.

The re-proposed increases caused uproar in the press, with some referring to it as an “extra death tax” or “stealth tax” for those who have already paid tax their whole lives, as well as paying inheritance tax.

As assets in the estate are frozen until an executor receives a grant of probate, it could be difficult for executors to pay the fees theselves, particularly at the higher level. It has been suggested that some executors may even have to take out loans personally, to cover the fees.

The Ministry of Justice have insisted that the fee is not a tax and that it will be publishing a guidance document on ways to pay.

Abbie Kingdon, senior private client solicitor at Samuels Solicitors LLP says: “whilst the fees proposed are lower than those previously anticipated, the fees at the higher rate will be very likely to cause upset and distress for many executors, particularly the elderly and the vulnerable at a time when they are grieving. Solicitors are hoping that the guidance document which is yet to be published, will offer some comfort to bereaved family members in this position."

If you are dealing with probate and would like some free, no obligation advice about the procedures you need to follow, contact us today to see how we can help.