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Increase in Probate Fees in England & Wales

View profile for Liz Taylor
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The Government has announced proposals to change the way probate fees are calculated, and for many it won't be for the better.

In England and Wales, probate fees – paid when administering someone's estate after they die – will now be paid as a sliding scale depending on how much the estate is worth, rather than as a flat fee. 

At the moment, families pay a flat £215, or £155 if they apply through a solicitor, on estates over £5,000. However the government has proposed that from April 2019, the fee will be related directly to the value of the estate. The effective date will of course depend upon Parliament passing the relevant legislation in time; Brexit may well delay its introduction.

For estates over £2 million, the fees you pay will be almost £6,000 more; for estates worth less than £50,000, you won't pay anything at all. According to the Ministry of Justice, this means an extra 25,000 estates per year won't pay any probate fees.

These changes will only apply to estates in England and Wales - Scotland and Northern Ireland have different probate fees.

Calculating fees on a banded system could be seen as a stealth tax, since the probate office has to do the same work, regardless of whether the estate is worth £5,000 or £5 million. The real reason behind the change is to plug a shortfall in the cost of the courts service. The courts in England and Wales currently raise about £740 million in fees, and cost £1.6 billion to administer.

What are the proposed fees?

Value of EstateProbate Fee
from £0 to £50,000nil
from £50,000 to £300,000£250
from £300,000 to £500,000£750
from £500,000 to £1,000,000£2,500
from £1,000,000 to £1,600,000£4,000
from £1,600,000 to £2,000,000£5,000
over £2,000,000£6,000
  

Whilst the change represents a significant increase, the fees are lower than those proposed by the Government in 2017, when bills were projected to rise as high as £20,000.

There remains concern over the fact that executors will also have to pay the probate fee up front before reclaiming it from the estate once probate has been granted. Some families will be left no choice but to borrow to be able to foot the bill.

Responding to concerns, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Justice Lucy Frazer MP said: “We have listened to these very carefully, and under [this] proposal we have revised fees so they will never be more than 0.5% of the value of the estate.

"This new banded fee model represents a fair and more progressive way to pay for probate services compared to the current flat fee and reflects our commitment to protecting access to justice by ensuring we have a properly funded and resourced courts system.

"We are also confident these fees will never be unaffordable. The cost of the fee is recoverable from the estate and executors have several options to fund it. Moreover, the Lord Chancellor retains a power to remit a fee if he considers there are exceptional circumstances.”