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Probate fee increases ditched

The threat of a ‘stealth death tax’ which has been hanging over grieving families since 2017 has finally been lifted for good.

At long last the government has scrapped proposed fee increases for probate with the Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, admitting that charges must be ‘fair and proportionate’.

The move follows massive opposition from many MPs, members of the House of Lords, the charity sector and organisations including Solicitors for the Elderly, of which Jenny Pierce, head of Wards Solicitors’ Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity Team, is a national director.

‘Iniquitous system’

Jenny says: “I am delighted and hugely relieved to hear that the government has finally listened to reason and shelved plans to introduce an iniquitous system that was never anything more than a back door tax on grief.

“The SFE, alongside others, has campaigned long and hard to have these planned changes permanently abandoned. It is significant that not a single SFE member – and that adds up to more than 1,600 lawyers across the country – agreed with the fee increases.

“Here at Wards Solicitors, we have seen a dramatic increase in enquiries from older and vulnerable people concerned about the fees.”

Controversial

A grant of probate is the authorisation you need to manage the estate of someone who has died.

The much opposed and controversial changes would have introduced probate fees on a sliding scale of up to £6,000 depending on the value of the estate replacing the current flat rate probate fee of £215, or £155 if applying through a solicitor.

Although it was announced earlier this year, amid extended Brexit negotiations, that the charges were likely to be abandoned, a surge of applications has contributed to administrative ‘chaos’ in the Probate Service with grieving families having to wait between 12 and 14 weeks for a grant.

This has been compounded by the Probate Service becoming digitalised.

What now?

The government argued that the proposed increase – which would have brought in an extra £185 million for the Treasury – was necessary to fund the court system.

A wider review of court fees will now take place with the emphasis on finding a ‘fairer and proportionate’ alternative in the future.

The majority of Wards Solicitors’ Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity Team lawyers are either student or full members of SFE. Full members hold the Certificate in Older Client Care in Practice Award. Jenny Pierce has been SFE’s regional coordinator for Bristol and Bath since 2002 and Ruth Coles has been Somerset’s regional coordinator since 2010.

For further help and guidance, please contact Wards Solicitors’ Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team.

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