Probate Court fees – where have we got to?
Earlier this year the Government revived its 2017 plan for an increase in probate application fees for estates in England and Wales. The new version imposes slightly less punitive charges than its previous incarnation which failed to pass through Parliament before the June 2017 general election.
The proposed changes which were due to come into force on 1st April this year will see fees levied based on the value of an estate at the date of death as set out below rather than the current flat fee of £155 (or £215 for a personal application).
|Value of estate before Inheritance Tax||Proposed Fee|
|Up to £50,000||£0|
|£50,000 – £300,000||£250|
|£300,000 – £500,000||£750|
|£500,000 – £1m||£2,500|
|£1m – £1.6m||£4,000|
|£1.6m – £2m||£5,000|
According to the Ministry of Justice, the fees are necessary in order to fund the current comprehensive reform of the courts and tribunal system. The proposed charges however bear no relation to the actual cost of providing the probate service and has led to a general outcry from the profession and members of the public.
Practitioners, HMRC and probate registries have seen an increase in workload with personal representatives rushing to get probate applications through before the rise in court fees. HMRC and the probate registries are currently dealing with a backlog of applications and it is now taking several months for a Grant of Representation to be issued instead of a couple of weeks.
This state of affairs is likely to continue for the foreseeable future as the rise in probate court fees is yet to materialise 5 months on from the 1st April deadline, Parliament being so consumed by Brexit. The proroguing of Parliament whereby the current parliamentary session is brought to an end had the unintended consequence of shelving the proposed rise in court fees. Celebrations were short lived however with the Supreme Court ruling that Boris Johnson’s proroguing of Parliament was unlawful. We are therefore no further forward and our advice to Personal Representatives is still to obtain all the necessary information about the estate and apply for a Grant of Representation as quickly as possible.