The UK government has announced a significant change in the way probate fees work, moving from a flat fee of £155 through a solicitor or £215 by a member of the public for estates to a sliding scale based on the size of the estate starting at £50,000. This change, which will increase the fees for some estates by as much as 9,200%, has been called wholly unnecessary by the legal industry, with the head of our private client team, Chris Partington, describing the move as “the Government introducing taxation on death by stealth”.
What is probate?
Probate is the legal and financial process of dealing with the assets and liabilities of a person who has died. In most cases the person or persons administering the estate will need to apply to a probate registry for a Grant of Representation (called a Grant of Probate where the estate is administered by the executor(s) named in the will). Those administering the estate will be unable to collect in the assets of the estate, pay liabilities or pay or transfer assets to the beneficiaries, without a Grant.
The work required by the probate registry to issue the Grant is the same, whatever the size of the estate.
As a result – the cost for applying for a Grant has historically been a flat fee of £155 for all estates.
What are the new probate fees?
The cost for probate is changing in May 2017 to a sliding scale, which increases according to the value of the estate. Although probate will now only start to cost for estates worth £50,000 or more, taking some people out of needing to pay, the costs for those who do need to pay will increase dramatically.
|Value of estate||New probate fee||Percentage increase|
|£300,000 – £500,000||£1,000||365%|
|£500,000 – £1,000,000||£4,000||1760%|
|£1,000,000 – £1,600,000||£8,000||3621%|
|£1,600,000 – £2,000,000||£12,000||5481%|
|£2,000,000 and above||£20,000||9200%|
What do the new fees mean for probate?
In short: the new fees mean that a lot more people will be paying a lot more money for the same amount of work and the same end result.
Although the figures might seem positive at first glance, in the sense that they will be taking some people out of having to pay for probate, people who do pay the fees will have to pay a lot more than they previously would have done.
With the average house in England currently valued at £272,000, increasing numbers of people who may be asset rich but cash poor will be pushed into the higher fee categories.
During the government consultation on this issue only 1.6% of respondents agreed with these proposals, with the majority of respondents being solicitors and legal experts who know the value of probate and work with people going through this difficult process on a daily basis. Despite this, the government has made the decision to make the changes, and these figures are something you will need to be aware of when applying for probate in the future.
Please consider signing this online petition urging the Government to reconsider its decision:
Do you have any questions about probate? Contact one of our expert team for a free, no obligation discussion here.
Editors note: In the face of the snap general election, the government cancelled their plans to increase probate fees.