Probate fee rises back on the agenda

Posted: 3rd December 2018

HMCTSEarly last year it was announced that there would be an increase in the court fee payable to obtain a grant of representation to an estate from the current level of £155 for solicitor applications and £215 for personal applications to an amount that was linked to the value of the estate, irrespective of the beneficiary or inheritance tax position of the estate.

It was said at the time that the increase was needed to ensure adequate funding for the court service as a whole. Estates worth £2 million and more would attract an eye-watering fee of £20,000.

The proposals were controversial and attracted a lot of negative feedback. The parliamentary Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments questioned the lawfulness of the proposals for what it regarded as a stealth tax which did not reflect the actual cost of the service.

Then Lord Chancellor Liz Truss had yet to respond to these criticisms when a general election was called and the legislation abandoned.

Earlier this month revised proposals to increase the court fee payable on an application for a grant of representation were announced. This will require the approval of both Houses of Parliament before it can become law.

Although the proposed fees are lower than those put forward in 2017, they still represent a significant increase on the current fees, even at the lowest level. No fixed date for the rise has been announced but it is believed likely that it will take effect from April 2019 onwards.

All estates below £50,000 will become exempt from probate court fees but for all other estates there will be an increase compared to the current arrangements. Estates worth up to £300,000 will attract a fee of £250, up to £500,000 - £750, up to £1 million - £2,500, up to £1.6 million - £4,000, up to £2 million £5,000 and anything over that amount £6,000.

So even if the estate does not become subject to inheritance tax because of a surviving spouse exemption or charitable relief it will not escape the much higher court fees that are proposed by  this announcement.

For further information about the matters covered in this article or any other aspect of probate and estate administration, please contact Robert Bracher on robertb@mrw-law.co.uk or 01460 200450.