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Changes to probate fees – could your family be affected?

Big increases in probate fees are being considered by the Government in a bid to raise an extra £250m a year to help cut the deficit and fund the courts and tribunal service.

The proposed rise would hit beneficiaries of the highest value estates hardest with homes worth over £2m incurring a fee of £20,000 - as much as 129 times more than the current levels.

Although ministers argue the plan would lift 30,000 estates out of paying the probate fee altogether - by raising the threshold value of estates exempt from paying any fees at all from £5,000 to £50,000 - there are concerns that most people inheriting a home will end up paying more than they do now.

How does probate work?

Obtaining a grant of probate is the process by which someone is given the authority to deal with the property, money and possessions of a person after they die. It is usually sought by the executor of a will or a person acting on their behalf.

At present, the executors of a will pay a flat fee of just £155 if acting through a solicitor - a cost that has already seen a sharp increase from just £45 in 2014 - and £215 if acting on their own, up from £105.

What new rates could be charged?

There are changes across the board, but the more your property is worth, the bigger fee your beneficiaries will potentially have to pay in probate fees:

  • £300 for estates worth more than £50,000 and up to £300,000
  • £1,000 for estates worth more than £300,000 and up to £500,000
  • £4,000 for estates worth more than £500,000 and up to £1m
  • £8,000 for estates worth more than £1m and up to £1.6m
  • £12,000 for estates worth more than £1.6m and up to £2m
  • £20,000 for estates worth more than £2m

The Ministry of Justice is currently receiving responses to its proposals until 1 April 2016.