Probate Fees - March 2019
As you know the proposed legislation is back before Parliament now, having been unable to pass in 2017 because the General Election was called.
I have followed the process on probate fee reform very closely since changes were first proposed in 2016. I appreciate they are a great change from the existing structure of a flat £155 fee for applications by a solicitor, and £215 by an individual for estates worth £5,000 or more. The 2016 consultation proposed some good measures which the Government has adopted. For example, increasing the threshold below which no fee is payable for applications for grants of probate from £5,000 to £50,000 will help many families. I do appreciate though that the proposed seven fee bands, rising to a maximum fee of £20,000 for estates worth more than £2million will mean that those estates leaving the most will pay significantly more than they do so at the moment.
That's why, when the legislation was re-introduced a couple of months ago, I was pleased that this had been reduced to £6,000 for estates worth more than £2million. It was right that the Government listened to the strong representations that many so rightly made, as this is a far better outcome.
For many estates, which fall between £50,000 and £300,000, the fees introduced will be £250. While this represents a rise in the current fees, it would generate over £145million in additional fee income for the Government which they have guaranteed would be spent on running the courts and tribunal service, which is very welcome.
I would also add that for many families who are in the most need, they benefit from the proposed changes. An additional 25,000 estates will be taken out of fees altogether every year, and 50% of people will pay no fees at all.
In addition, I am also pleased to note that the proposed legislation does include some changes which will make it easier for families to apply for probate. These include being able to initiate cases online, including payments by credit or debit card, and the swearing of an oath will be replaced by an online statement of truth which means that you don't have to visit the registry in person, or pay an additional fee to swear the oath in a solicitors office.
I do fully appreciate your concerns about this as, for some estates, the fees will rise considerably. The Government has addressed the concerns which were raised in the consultation and also when it tried to introduce the legislation before the last General Election. However I am happy that so many people are going to be paying fewer than they will at the moment.