Resurrection of increase of probate court fees in 2019
22nd November 2018 by Deborah Pearce
Approximately two years ago the Government proposed an increase in probate court fees saying that they had not been reviewed for many years and were out of date.
The proposed increases were viewed with both scepticism and shock as they were drastically disproportionate, an estate worth up to £2million could have faced probate court fees of £20,000!
Despite the Government’s assertions that the new upward sliding scale was not unfair continued protests and the lack of time to pass the law meant the proposal was postponed but with an indication that matters would be reviewed at a later date.
That date is now upon us.
At the moment any application for probate through a solicitor costs £155 plus 50p for every additional office copy/sealed Court copy. A personal application costs £215. Any estate below £5000 requires no fees.
Now, it is proposed that any estate worth £50,000 or below will attract no probate court fees but above that there will be an increasing sliding scale as follows:-
Estates from £50,000 to £300,000 £250
Estates from £300,000 to £500,000 £750
Estates from £500,000 to £1m £2500
Estates from £1m to £1.6m £3785
Estates from £1.6m to £2m £5000
Estates over £2m £6000
These increases are astronomic and way above inflation and bear no value to the amount of work involved in the Court issuing a grant for £50,000 as opposed to one of £2m. The Government says that 25,000 estates will still bear no probate court fees but that is probably cold comfort for the others that will not.
We do not know upon which date the increases will take effect although there is some speculation it may be from April 2019. Neither is it known whether the “value” upon which the fee is payable is going to be the net value of the estate for probate purposes or based upon its declared value for inheritance tax purposes which can be different. For example you could have an estate worth £2m for probate purposes but because it all passes to charity it benefits from 100 % charitable exemption for inheritance tax purposes equating to a nil value.
Which figure will form the basis of the fee hike? We suspect the former rather than the latter.
Also, will the date of death of the deceased person have a bearing i.e. if you die before the date of increase coming into force, will you pay at the existing rate or the new one?
If one set date is introduced all probate papers submitted after 6th April 2019 will attract the new rate. This will cause panic and pressure for Executors who will be rushing to complete papers before the due date which may not be achievable depending upon the date when the person died – hardly fair.
We will have to await further guidance but hand on heart can we be assured that it will issue in sufficient time to be prepared? The UK waits but hopefully not as long as the BREXIT negotiations have taken!