The Ministry of Justice launched a consultation this month regarding a proposed increase in the probate court fee.
The consultation proposes charging a single fixed fee of £273 per probate application.
Under current rules, a solicitor applicant pays a fee of £155 while a lay applicant pays £215. Research shows that the average cost of processing a probate application in 2018/2019 was £260-£265 and the shortfall has, to date, been covered by the taxpayer.
The proposal seeks to:
- Remove what is now believed to be an unjustified discrepancy and ensure that all users pay the same fee for the same service
- Eliminate the public subsidy currently required to fund the service
- Raise an additional £23m-£25m per year for the courts and tribunals service (HMCTS), which will support the Lord Chancellor’s statutory and constitutional duty to ensure access to justice.
The increased fee will not generate any profit for HMCTS and has been calculated based on the cost of processing probate applications. Estates of less than £5,000 would continue to be exempt for fees.
The last fee increases were in April 2014. There have been previous consultations regarding the increase in fees, but the increases proposed then were based on the value of the estate, with the highest value estates paying a proposed fee of £6,000. This was dubbed the “death stealth tax” and the proposals were eventually abandoned.
The consultation ends on 23 September 2021 and, depending on the outcome of the consultation, it is anticipated that the news fee will be introduced in early 2022.
Further information on the consultation can be found here.