Update – New Probate Fees

15th April 2019

In April 2019 we brought you news that fees for processing probate matters are set to rise this this year.  See https://www.hannayslaw.co.uk/new-probate-fee-structure-from-april-2019/

These proposals to create a banded structure for the probate fee, based on the size of the estate, remain stalled by the current Brexit-related turmoil in parliament. Under the proposed scheme estates worth £2m or more would pay £6,000 instead of £155.

Justice minister Lucy Frazer has said the new fee structure is expected to bring in additional income of £145m in the next financial year.

Critics of the new structure allege that the government is creating a new ‘stealth tax’. They argue that it is unfair to expect the bereaved to fund or subsidise other parts of the courts and tribunal service, particularly in circumstances where they have no other options but to use the probate service.

What makes this seem even more unfair is that it appears that grieving families in the North East will now have to go farther afield for support under new plans to centralise the Probate Registries.

The Law Society Gazette has recently reported that the Ministry of Justice has begun work on closing down regional Probate Registries and moving the service under one roof. There are ten probate registries across England and Wales and staff have been told of intentions to scale back their operations and eventually close down the sites.

The change comes as part of the wider £1bn modernisation programme to upgrade the courts and tribunals service. Ministers insist the service will improve through bringing together shared expertise. The eventual plan is to move probate services to the Courts and Tribunals Service Centre in Birmingham, with some administrative work taking place at a second site.

Questions are certain to be asked about why probate services are being cut when the government plans to increase fees.

A government spokesperson said : ‘Courts and Tribunals Service Centres are a key part of our £1 billion Reform Programme and will ensure we deliver better services for all court users’.

It is hard to argue that this could be true for Probate Services if the regional office is closed making the service less accessible and new fees introduced which make it all much more expensive. Executors also have to pay the new probate fees up front, although there is discussion with the banks to try to find a way to release funds from accounts to pay the fees in the same way that funds are released for funeral expenses.

If you feel strongly about this please write to your MP.