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Probate Court Fee Changes

View profile for Geraint Aubrey
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Despite overwhelming opposition during the consultation period, the Ministry of Justice has recently announced radical changes to the Probate Court fee. Presently, the court fee is fixed at £155 for professionals or £215 for individuals. The fee is payable to the court for issuing the grant of probate and must be paid in all cases where a grant is required.

The government will now be implementing a sliding scale fee based on the valuation of the estate. The new proposed fee scale is below and will come into play in May this year:-

Value of EstateCourt Fee
£0 - £49,999 £0
£50,000 - £299,99£300
£300,000 - £499,999£1,000
£500,000 - £999,999£4,000
£1,000,000 - £1,599,999£8,000
£1,600,000 - £1,999,999£12,000
£2,000,000 and above£20,000

 

The effect this will have on the smaller estates will be marginal. Estates that still need a grant and are valued below £50,000 will not have to a pay a court fee at all. These estates will make a saving of either £155 or £215. Estates then worth between £50,000 and £300,000 will only have an increase of £145 for professionals and £85 for individuals. Once the value of the estate crosses over the £300,000 threshold the jump then becomes significant. It is perhaps also worth noting at this juncture that many of these estates are already likely to be taxable estates. The biggest increase will be for estates worth over 2million. When the new rules are implemented in May this year these estates will pay an increase of either £19,845 or £19,785.

The changes cause many issues and as previously mentioned were strongly opposed during the consultation period. The new fees will be payable when submitting the application for the grant of probate. As such, many assets will not be able to be accessed at this time. Executors will have to foot the bill (along with many other administrative bills) and may not be in a position to do this.

The government has been strongly criticised for this approach which many believe amounts to another form of tax on estates. The fees do seem unjustifiable particularly when there is no difference in the amount of work carried out by the courts.  A fee of £20,000 for the issuing of a grant of probate seems extremely excessive regardless of the value of the estate. A comparison can be made here to the fee scale that is in place for the Land Registry. The Land Registry has used a sliding scale for fees for some time with the lowest fee being £40 and the highest £910. This does seem more reasonable with the highest fees reserved for properties over 1million. However, the biggest point to note with the Land Registry is the gap between the lowest and highest fee. The highest fee is £870 more than the lowest fee which makes this seem like a more acceptable fee scale. The difference of £20,000 in fees (for the same job) is simply one that does not sit well with me or evidently the profession in general.

If you are concerned regarding the fee changes and what the mean for you, please get in touch with our specialist Probate department in Cardiff on 02920 291704.

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