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Probate fee rise scrapped

17 October 2019

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The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has confirmed that plans to raise fees charged for a grant of probate have been scrapped.

The Law Society – which has campaigned heavily against the proposed fee rise – is claiming the U-turn as a personal victory.

However, it is now pushing HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) to take action to address the “significant delays in grants of probate, in part caused by a rush of applications seeking to avoid the proposed fee hike, which remain of concern”.

The Law Society claims some cases are taking weeks longer than the six-to-eight-week delays estimated by the courts service.

Under the government’s proposals in the Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order, probate fees would have risen from the current fixed fee of £215 – or £155 with a solicitor – to a sliding scale of fees of up to £6,000 depending on the size of the estate.

The fee hike was originally tabled in November 2018 and the new fees were intended to be introduced in April 2019.

However, amid pressure from the Law Society and opposition from the public and MPs the plans were never brought to a vote in the House of Commons.

The move was then put on hold following the prorogation of parliament, but this week’s announcement by the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland means the controversial policy will not be revived.

“A hike in probate fees would have been a tax on grief”, said Law Society president Simon Davis. “We campaigned vigorously against the increase on behalf of bereaved families and are relieved the government has listened to reason”.

Her added that it was unfair to expect the bereaved to fund other parts of the courts and tribunal service when they have no other option but to apply for probate.

The Law Society said the plans could have caused significant cashflow problems for many people who are asset rich but cash poor, such as pensioners and farmers.

It also objected to the plans on the grounds that they represented a misuse of the Lord Chancellor’s power to levy fees.

The Law Society said: “The disproportionate level of the proposed fees would have effectively amounted to a stealth tax, and the use of a statutory instrument to implement them – a route that allows less parliamentary scrutiny than formal legislation – would have set a dangerous precedent for future tax rises.”

The Lord Chancellor has also announced that the MoJ will conduct a wider review of court fees, which will involve only “small adjustments to cover costs”.

Davis added: “In its review of court fees the government should bear in mind that it is a false economy to impose charges that go beyond cost recovery. Equal access to justice is a fundamental part of the rule of law.”

Categorised in:

Regulation Private client Wills, Trusts & Probate