Probate fees are due to rise on a sliding scale from next April, raising costs for more estates and leading to suggestions that the new regime is simply taxation by another name.
Currently, probate fees are charged when applying for a Grant of Probate Grant of Letters of Administration from the Probate Registry. In many cases, a grant of representation is required for the collection/sale of assets in the estate , and with the new fee structure concerns have been raised that families may face unnecessary financial hardship.
Currently, fees are set at a flat rate of £155 for an application by a solicitor and £215 for a personal application. This fee must be paid to the probate registry before a grant can be issued. The new sliding scale, based on the value of the estate, starts at a higher rate than the current level and peaks at £6,000 for estates worth more than £2m.
The proposed fees under the new structure are as below:
Despite Justice Minister Lucy Frazer stating that 80 per cent of estates should pay no more than £750 under the new system, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) believes that 85 per cent of estates would be liable for higher fees, than currently. George Hodgson, STEP’s chief executive, said: “The new charges bear no relation to the actual court costs for issuing Grants of Probate, and are simply another form of taxation, snuck in through the back door.”
Alex Taylor, Head of Wills, Trusts & Estates at Harrison Clark Rickerbys, Cheltenham office and a member of STEP, urges families not to panic. “For a long time now banks and building societies have allowed executors to access frozen bank accounts prior to obtaining a Grant of Probate in order to pay funeral expenses and inheritance tax. We are expecting that to be extend to the probate application fee so as to allow the administration of estates to proceed smoothly without financial hardship.”