Probate Fees and proposed changesJan 25, 2019
On 5 November 2018, junior Justice Minister Lucy Frazer announced Government’s proposed changes to probate fees for court applications in England and Wales
If the proposed changes are approved by Parliament, this will in most cases substantially increase the fees needed to obtain a grant of probate.
What is probate?
Probate is the process where someone, usually an executor appointed in a valid Will, administers a person’s estate when they pass away.
For those who did not leave a Will, or the executors cannot act for any reason, the process is still the same as applying for a grant of probate but is named “Letters of Administration”.
Generally, when a deceased owned significant assets, for example, a home, stocks and shares, or over £10,000 in a sole bank account, an executor would need to obtain a grant of probate before dealing with the assets.
In many cases where everything passes to their surviving spouse or civil partner and assets are in joint names, a grant of probate would not usually need to be obtained because the asset passes to the surviving person automatically.
The current court fee for probate
Currently, the court fee to apply for a grant of probate is £155 when using a solicitor and £215 if an individual applies directly.
The only exemption to the current court fee is where the estate is less than £5,000 there is no fee payable.
The proposed probate fee changes
Unlike the current system where there is a standard fee regardless of the size of a deceased’s estate, the proposed reform has seven fee bands. The seven bands increase the court fee payable in accordance with the value of the estate.
Therefore, the higher the value of the estate, the higher the court fee payable.
The seven proposed bands are:
|Estate Value (before inheritance tax)||Proposed court fee|
|Above £50,000, but below £300,000||£250|
|Above £300,000, but below £500,000||£750|
|Above £500,000, but below £1 million||£2,500|
|Above £1 million, but below £1.6 million||£4,000|
|Above £1.6 million, but below £2 million||£5,000|
|Above £2 million||£6,000|
There is certainly some criticism of the proposed change in probate fees. There is one argument that the amount of work required from the Probate Registry in dealing with a £1 million estate would be the same as a £200,000 estate and does not justify the substantial increase in court fees due to wealth.
However, the new proposal states that around 80% of estates would pay £750 or less on average and those paying a higher fee have the means to do so.
The proposed court fees shall come into force through a statutory instrument. However, the House of Commons approval is still needed before it is implemented.
As there have been several proposals for reforming the court fees for probate applications over recent years, it is likely that some form of change is likely to be implemented soon.
What can I do?
At the moment we do not know exactly when these changes will take effect, and with the possibility of another general election it may mean that they are delayed. However, it may be worth reviewing your assets, especially for married couples, only with your Wills to see if there are ways to structure matters that would reduce the need to apply for probate.
If you have any questions regarding probate fees or any other enquiries regarding Wills, Trusts and Probate please do not hesitate to contact Rhianna Greenley, Trainee Solicitor by emailing [email protected] or by calling 01752 827039. Alternatively, contact David Cornelius, Partner and team leader of the department, by emailing [email protected] or by calling 01752 827076.