With Parliament now prorogued until the Queen’s Speech in October, the Non-Contentious Probate Fees Order has officially lapsed.
This means that plans to increase the current fixed probate fees of £215, or £155 when a solicitor is used, have been shelved. It is currently unclear whether the plans will be resurrected in the next parliamentary session.
The government had been planning to introduce a new sliding scale for probate fees, which would have seen a sliding scale introduced, with fees charged dependent on the value of the estate, up to a maximum of £6,000. This had been widely criticised by practitioners and campaigners as a stealth tax in all but name.
The bill’s progress through parliament had already ground to a halt, with the original launch of the new probate fees planned for April 2019.
One of the key criticisms levelled at the plans was that the cost to the courts does not change whether an estate is worth £50,000 or £2 million, so forcing larger estates to pay more could have been seen as a furtive way of increasing the “tax” due on an estate, entirely separate from inheritance tax.
That the government was seeking to raise probate fees via statutory instrument, would have meant that the fee increase would have bypassed full parliamentary debate, as the fees are not classed as a tax.
What were the proposed changes?
Under the proposed rules, estates with a value of more than £50,000 would have seen a substantial increase in fees, amounting to a sizeable £6,000, for the highest-value estates. Under the current regime, there is a flat fee of £155 (for applications made through legal representatives) or £215 (for applications made by members of the public).
No fee would have been payable for estates worth less than £50,000, but the charges would have increased sharply beyond that threshold, as shown below.
|Value of Estate||New Fee||% Change (from £215)|
|Up to £5,000||£0||0%|
|£5,000 – £50,000||£0||-100%|
|£50,001 – £300,000||£250||+16%|
|£300,001 – £500,000||£750||249%|
|£500,001 – £1m||£2,500||1063%|
|£1m – £1.6m||£4,000||1760%|
|£1.6m – £2m||£5,000||2226%|
This publication has been prepared by RRL LLP. It is to be treated as a general guide only and is not intended to be a comprehensive statement of the law or represent specific advice. No liability is accepted for the opinions it contains, or for any errors or omissions. All rights reserved.