The Government is coming under intense pressure to review its plans to increase probate fees by up to £20,000 – thanks in part to the efforts of Solicitors for the Elderly, an organisation of which all Wards Solicitors’ probate team are members.
A parliamentary joint committee on statutory instruments has now stated that the proposed increases are unlawful after an outcry which branded the fee hikes as a back door tax on the bereaved.
Parliament to reconsider fees
Although the Government continues to insist it will forge ahead with its plans, the issue is to be considered again in parliament after Easter.
Jenny Pierce, Head of the Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team at Wards Solicitors and regional coordinator for Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) in Bristol and Bath, said: “We are delighted to see the Select Committee has confirmed what was clear from the offset – the Government’s probate fee hikes are nothing more than a backdoor tax, and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has acted beyond its powers in enforcing these changes.
“By proceeding with these fees, ministers point-blank ignored the views of almost every respondent involved in the consultation process. Since then, SFE has campaigned hard, alongside other organisations, to have these changes reviewed. Although it is unclear what this means for those currently applying for probate ahead of the deadline of 1st May, it seems likely there will be some sort of delay.
“Our hope now is that the Government re-evaluates these fees, and at the very least, finds a fairer way of structuring them.”
The changes would affect most estates from May this year. Instead of the current flat rate of £215, or £155 if applying through a solicitor, a new band of charges would be introduced meaning that the more an estate is worth, the bigger the probate fee beneficiaries would have to pay.
Executors for estates worth between £500,000 and £1 million, for example, would have to pay £4,000 and estates valued at over £2 million would incur a charge of more than £20,000 representing a staggering 12,900 per cent increase.
A petition set up asking the Government to think again about the proposed increases has now gathered more than 36,000 signatures. To sign it, click here