Significant increase in Probate fees likely for May 2017

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At present, the Court fees payable when applying for a Grant of Probate in England and Wales is £215.00 (or £155.00 when applying through a Solicitor). However, the Government has confirmed its intention to introduce a new fee scale from May 2017.

The proposed fee scale will mean that estates valued at between £50,000 and £300,000 will now pay a fee of £300.00 for the Grant of Probate. The fees then increase depending on the value of the estate, up to a maximum fee of £20,000 for estates worth £2 million or more.

Currently, estates with a value of below £5,000 are exempt from the Court fee. Although the proposed fee scale will exempt estates valued at below £50,000 from paying any fee, this will only apply to around 58% of estates, with the remainder now facing a charge of at least twice the current Court fee.

The new fee scale has been labelled as an additional “death tax” on estates, where many already face the burden of paying inheritance tax. In addition, the new fees are not required in order to cover the costs of obtaining the Grant of Probate, and it is anticipated that the additional fees will be used to supplement the rest of the Court system.

The Government has pressed ahead with the new fee scale despite overwhelming opposition. Concerns were raised in the public consultation that Executors and grieving relatives would find themselves under increased financial strain as a result of the new fees, particularly as banks may not be willing to release funds before the Grant of Probate is received. Some Executors may be forced into applying for short-term bank loans in their own name, in order to pay for the fees. However, the Government has said in response that a limited Grant of Probate can be obtained if no funds are available, in order to obtain sufficient funds from the estate to pay for the full Grant of Probate.

No date has yet been set for the new fees as the relevant legislation must first be approved, but it is anticipated that the new fee scale will commence in May 2017. The Probate Registry is gearing up for an influx of applications ahead of the new fee scale.