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Plans to increase probate fees continue despite opposition

1st Mar 2017

The government will go ahead with an increase in probate application fees despite vehement opposition by lawyers.

Probate application fees are currently set at £215 if the process is handled directly by the executor, and £155 if represented by a solicitor. The new fees, which will apply from May 1st, will be calculated on the estimated value of the estate before inheritance tax and will be payable upfront.

There will be no fee for estates valued at less than £50,000, which the government estimates account for 58%t of estates. Above that value, fees will start at £300 for estates valued between £50,000 to £300,000, and will rise to £20,000 for estates valued above £2m.

Of the 853 responses to the consultation, 695 said that it would not be fairer to move to a proportionate fee structure, with many stating that the proposed fee was set above cost recovery levels, and as such amounted to a form of taxation. Some commented that the service provided by the probate service was not satisfactory, and so they would be reluctant to pay more for it.

The increase of the threshold beyond which a fee is payable from £5,000 to £50,000 was another area where most respondents disagreed. One reason for this was that the fees charged for higher value estate was set at a level which subsidised those under the new threshold.

However, the proposal that elicited the greatest dissatisfaction was the new banding, with 810 of the 831 responses in this regards disagreeing with the new structure. One particular criticism was the unfairness in calculating the fee based on the value of the estate before payment of inheritance tax.