The Government has decided not to go ahead with the proposed increases in probate fees in England and Wales, in light of the recent general election announcement.

It has been revealed by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) that because of the upcoming election, there is not enough time to push the legislation through Parliament.

However, it has not been made clear whether the new fees would be reintroduced if the current government is re-elected.

The new probate fees

The planned rise would have seen probate fees rise from the flat fee of £215 (or £155 if you use a solicitor or authorised probate practitioner) per application, up to £20,000 depending upon the value of the estate.

Currently, you do not have to pay a fee if the estate is worth less than £5,000. The flat fee applies to all estates over this threshold. However, the new system would have seen the fee assessed on a sliding scale linked to the value of the estate. This would have meant that thousands of people would have seen a dramatic increase in the amount they would have to pay for probate. Estates valued at over £2m would have had to pay fees of £20,000.

The new system would also have seen the probate fee threshold rise from £5,000 to £50,000. This would have meant that fewer estates would have needed to pay for probate at all.

Is it a fair system?

Critics of the proposed new system included MPs, peers, solicitors, accountants and probate practitioners. There were questions around the legality of the changes, with arguments that they were a tax rather than a fee…another “death tax” for anyone prudent enough to have managed to save a lot of money at the end of their lifetime.

Probate fees are paid to the government and the proposed new charges were estimated to have brought in around £300m in revenue per year – which would have been used towards running the courts and tribunal service.

Although, rather embarrassingly, a Freedom of Information request has revealed that the MoJ does not actually know the average cost to the Government of processing probate applications.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal permission that is required to distribute someone’s Will after they have died.

For an executor to legally distribute the contents of a Will to the beneficiaries, a Grant of Probate must (where applicable) be obtained. And that is where the fees come into play.

For more information about probate contact Get Probate on 0161 907 4044 or [email protected]