Increases to probate fees
Posted on 26th July 2021
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has launched a consultation on its proposals to increase probate fees.
The new single fee of £273 will apply to professional and non-professional applicants, regardless of the size of the estate. The MoJ says the new fee reflects the cost of providing the service and is not intended to make a profit.
Currently the fees to apply for a grant of probate for an estate valued over £5,000 are £155 for professionals and £215 for individuals. Estates worth less than £5,000 don’t pay a fee.
The government says it costs HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) more to process probate applications than the fees it receives. It argues that the service therefore operates at a loss, placing a burden on the taxpayer by subsidising processing for the applications.
If the proposals go ahead, the government says it will raise between £23million and £25million each year from 2022, helping to reduce the £85million deficit in family jurisdiction services.
The MoJ says the new proposals are ‘significantly different’ from those that were abandoned in 2019, which would have seen bereaved families paying up to £6,000 for grants of probate.
Concerns about the probate service
Statistics for January to March 2021 show that the average time from applying for probate to a grant being issued is eight weeks. However, applications increased significantly during the winter wave of the pandemic and HMCTS has seen a surge in applications since the end of February so it could now take longer.
Professionals applying for grants of probate must now use the online service but it has been causing issues. They have complained that access codes repeatedly fail or they are returned to the login page despite entering the correct details.
Executors can also apply online but should be aware that there can be significant delays if the application to HM Revenues and Customs isn’t completed in time, is incomplete, or details concerning the estate or the Will aren’t clearly explained.
In 2020 applicants were waiting for 12 to 14 weeks on average to receive their grant of probate which meant executors were facing significant delays to settle their loved one’s estate.
The Law Society says that it is unreasonable to propose increases to fees when there are still significant delays in the service. With so many applications now online and the expansion of court and tribunal service centres to centralise administration, the Society says it is unclear why probate service overheads have increased to justify a significant additional fee.
The consultation about the proposed increase runs until 23 September.
Make your wishes clear
Keeping records of your estate and making sure you have an up to date and clearly written Will simplifies the process of applying for probate.
If you would like advice or want to review and update your Will please get in touch.
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