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Government consultation report reveals plans to implement significant increase in probate court fees:

I recently responded to a Government consultation on proposals to reform fees for obtaining a Grant of Representation post death. A Grant of Representation is the document which is often required to administer the affairs of a person who has died.

The Government is proposing a fee structure which charges an estate based on its value, compared to the current flat fee system which is currently in place.

Under the current system, the Probate Registry charges a court fee of £155 where a solicitor makes the application and £215 for a personal application.

The proposed fee structure proposes a system which charges the Personal Representatives of a deceased’s estate based upon the value of the estate.

See below for full fee structure: 

Value of Estate (before Inheritance Tax)

Proportion of Estates in England and Wales

Proposed Fee

Up to £50,000 (or not requiring a grant)

58%

£0

Over £50,000 but under £300,000

23%

£300

Over £300,000 and up to £500,000

11%

£1,000

Over £500,000 and up to £1 million

6%

£4,000

Over £1 million and up to £1.6 million

1%

£8,000

Over £1.6 million and up to £2 million

0.3%

£12,000

Over £2 million

0.5%

£20,000


One of the specific questions asked in the consultation was “Do you agree that it would be fairer to charge a fee that is proportionate to the value of the estate compared with charging a fixed fee for all applications for a grant of probate?”

Of the 829 responses received to this question, 63 respondents agreed, 695 disagreed and the remaining 71 respondents did not agree or disagree conclusively.

Despite the fact that an overwhelming number of respondents objected to the proposals, the Senior Judiciary agreed with the Government’s proposal to move to a “proportionate” fee structure and are looking to implement the changes as soon as May 2017.

One of the main objections to the proposals is that there is no difference in the amount of work that the Probate Registry will have to undertake to process a Grant application irrespective of the value of the deceased’s estate.

Another objection was the seemingly disproportionate nature of the increase in fees. Under the new fee structure, the Probate Registry’s most expensive fee will be 66 times its cheapest fee.

So, what does this all mean for you?

The fees will apply irrespective of who inherits the estate, unlike inheritance tax, so widows and charities will also be subject to the new fee regime. Like Inheritance tax however, the application fee will need paying upfront. For estates which consist of property but very little cash, this may cause difficulties in finding the money to pay the fee upfront.

It is anticipated however that loans will be made available by banks for executors to pay the fee. Banks may also be able to pay the fee direct to the Probate Registry if there are sufficient funds in the deceased’s bank account to settle the fee in full. It may even be possible to arrange for products such as life insurance for the purposes of settling the fee.

Is this is a proportionate increase or just another form of ‘back door’ taxation?

You can read the consultation report in full and decide for yourself by following the link below.

https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/fee-proposals-for-grants-of-probate/.