Reversing the increase of probate fees – a welcome development
The news that the Government has reversed its decision to increase probate fees is a welcome announcement following months of opposition from legal professionals and campaigners.
Last year, the Government set out its plans to change the charging structure for probate fees in England and Wales, replacing the current flat fee with a sliding scale.
While they proposed to abolish fees for estates worth less than £50,000, there was a significant increase for those worth more than this. Estates valued between £50,000 and £300,000 would have been charged £250, but for those worth £2 million or more, a maximum charge of £6,000 was set.
This is quite a diversion from the current position of a flat fee of £215, or £155 if families apply through a lawyer. It is estimated that almost 300,000 estates would have been affected.
There was much opposition to these proposals from many parties, including STEP (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) which said the new charges bear no relation to the cost of probate, and amounted to another form of taxation, ‘sneaked in’ through the back door.
The changes were originally due to be introduced in April of this year, but were delayed, and it has now been announced the proposed fees have been scrapped. The Government says that instead, probate fees will be reviewed as part of the annual assessment of charges in family and civil courts.
This move has been welcomed and removes the obligation for bereaved families to pay yet more costs at such a distressing time in their lives. It also retains the clarity of being charged a flat fee no matter the value of the estate.