Law Society urges practitioners to complete survey on proposed probate fees hike
The Law Society's survey closes at the end of August, ahead of the closure of the MOJ's consultation in September
The Law Society has today (16 August) urged probate practitioners to feed into its consultation response to the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) proposed fees hike for probate applications.
Fees for professional users are currently £155 and £215 for non-professional users. However, the MOJ has proposed a single fee of £273 be introduced for all users.
Law Society president, I. Stephanie Boyce, said: “We want to ensure that the changes won’t affect the viability of firms doing probate work or act as a barrier to vulnerable people who need to use this service.
“This survey is a way for us to hear your views on the proposals, as well as other improvements probate solicitors would like to see in the probate service in England.
“The probate service has had continued and significant delays during the pandemic, with some users facing delays of 12 to 14 weeks in 2020 when they were applying for probate grants of letters of administration.
“This is unacceptable, the service must be timely and allow executors to settle a loved one’s estate. The online service was specifically designed to streamline the process and the UK government must ensure the system is working efficiently.
“We would value input from probate practitioners who are using this service and views on how delays have affected their clients.”
Speaking to the Solicitors Journal last month, following the announcement of the fees hike, partner and head of private capital at DWF's Manchester office, Christopher Noel, said: “I agree with the Law Society that it seems hard to justify an increase in probate fees, particularly in the context of long delays and inconsistent service levels over these long last few months”.
Noel said he had some sympathy with the Probate Registry who had been forced to work from home “during a difficult and unprecedented time” and said he was sure that had caused “some logistical and practical difficulties in issuing grants”.
He added: “However, there is also a push to move more and more applications online and to centralise administration of grants, and with that in mind it again seems strange to raise fees when costs are (or should be) being cut”.
Noel also commented on the distinction between the fees paid by current users: “The current fees are lower for professional users, and presumably this has always been on the basis that a professional user will be easier, less time-consuming and therefore cheaper to deal with than a non-professional user, because the professional user is familiar with the process.
“The consultation document suggests that the costs of processing applications from the two groups is now broadly equivalent, and on that basis perhaps the two fees should be simplified into one, particularly as ultimately the estate pays in any event.”
The Law Society’s survey closes on Friday 27 August and it will respond in full to the consultation in September.