Probate fee increases abandoned; How did we get here?

The Government has announced, after much to-ing and fro-ing, indefinite delays and a lot of harsh criticism from industry professionals and concerned families, that the previously planned probate fee increases will be abandoned.

 

Probate fee increases; The proposals

Earlier this year, we commented on the proposed probate fee increase and the sizeable expense that those recently bereaved would likely face as a result – up to £6,000 extra for some.

The plan was to replace the current flat fee system with a sliding scale, which would see higher value estates become liable to higher fees. This is illustrated below:

Value of estate before Inheritance Tax and proposed fee;
Up to £50,000  (£0)                                                                  
£50,000-£300,000 (£250)                                                             
£300,000-£500,000 (£750)                                                           
£500,000-£1m (£2,500)                                           
£1m-£1.6m (£4,000)                                                                        
£1.6m-£2m (£5,000)                                                                        
More than £2m (£6,000)

Now, though, individuals in England and Wales will continue to pay £215 for personal applications and £155 for applications made by accountants, on their behalf.

 

A troubled timeline

The journey to the government’s latest announcement has been a long and drawn out one, so let’s recap the troubled timeline once more…

May 2017

The MoJ’s original proposals would have seen the ‘sliding scale’ introduced at this point, but with a maximum fee of £20,000 for the highest value estates. This was pitched as a means of ‘subsidising costs’ associated with running the HM Courts & Tribunals Service.

These proposals were met with almost universal condemnation during consultation, and the proposed legislation failed to pass through Parliament before the June 2017 General Election.

November 2018

A new sliding scale of probate fees was announced in November 2018, which saw more smaller estates exempted from the charges, but the highest value estates still liable to a maximum £6,000 fee.

For these proposals to become law, they needed to be formally approved by both Houses of Parliament. If approved, the fees were expected to take effect from April 2019.

April 2019

The changes were put on hold due to pressure on parliamentary time, largely a result of Brexit debates, and lack of an approval motion in the Commons.

Although welcomed, this announcement came just 4 days before the changes were due to take effect and so many worried families had already rushed to submit their probate applications before the increases arrived.

This ultimately led to a bottleneck of applications and lengthy wait times (up to 15 weeks in our experience) for those in the system.

October 2019

The government confirm that the proposed increases have been abandoned and that probate fees will instead undergo a review as part of the annual assessment of charges in family and civil courts.

 

Our thoughts…

Probate director Barry Jefferd said, “Whilst this is welcome news, it once again shows the lack of understanding within Government about how reckless announcements can cause so much difficulty.

A system that was working perfectly was wrecked by what can only be described as greed. It is of course up to any institution to charge what they see fit, but the problems would not have been so bad if the new fees were to apply for deaths occurring after the appointed date, rather than applications made after that time.”

 

How can GH Probate help?

At an already difficult time, we firmly believe that the process of obtaining probate and administering the deceased’s estate should be as simple and stress-free as possible. Our comprehensive and non-contentious Probate & Estates services are designed to make this prospect a reality, with no need to involve a third party.

GH Probate Ltd can assist with as many, or as few, functions of the executor role as you wish; from gathering in and distributing assets, to calculating any Inheritance Tax (IHT) due.

Our specialist team have vast experience in this area, and we undertake the role with the utmost sensitivity and discretion.

We only charge for what we do; we do not add on a percentage fee based on the value of the estate. Our team work with you and will ensure that you are always kept up-to-date on how an estate is progressing.

To find out more about our Probate & Estates services, download our service summary leaflet here or, if you’re curious about the process and what it entails then our handy Probate & Estates FAQ Guide, available here, is a great place to start.

If you wish to discuss your circumstances with one of our team of practitioners in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire or Hertfordshire, contact us today.

Article authored by Barry Jefferd, Head of GH Probate Limited, and Martin Williams, qualified Probate practitioner.
GH Probate is the trading style of GH Probate Limited. Registered in England and Wales number 9630102. Registered Office: St George’s House, George Street, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE29 3GH.
Authorised to carry out the reserved legal activity of non-contentious probate in England and Wales by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales.

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