You may have heard that the government is seeking to increase the fees payable on an Application for a Grant of Probate / Letters of Administration.

As solicitors applying for the Grant, the fee payable by our Clients is currently £155.00 with a further nominal charge for official copies.  The proposed fee structure is significant to say the least:

Value of Estate (Before Inheritance Tax) Proportion of All Estates in England and Wales Proposed Fee
Up to £50,000 or exempt from requiring a Grant of Probate 58% £0
Exceeds £50,000 but does not exceed £300,000 23% £300
Exceeds £300,000 but does not exceed £500,000 11% £1,000
Exceeds £500,000 but does not exceed £1,000,000 6% £4,000
Exceeds £1,000,000 but does not exceed £1,600,000 1% £8,000
Exceeds £1,600,000 but does not exceed £2,000,000 0.3% £12,000
Above £2,000,000 0.5% £20,000

To consider that the fee payable for an Estate over £2,000,000 would increase from £155 to £20,000 is incredible.  It is noted in The Law Society Gazette (10 April 2017) that the Parliamentary Committee heavily criticised the fee increase, with Lady Meacher commenting, ‘A £20,000 increase is not a charge.  It’s clearly a tax and the Lord Chancellor is not entitled to impose a tax.  Imposing this on poor families who might come into a bit of money is completely unreasonable’.

The Inheritance Tax threshold is currently £325,000 per individual; meaning that 40% tax is payable on the value of the Estate above the tax-free threshold.  Is it then just to add a further payment on top?  Is it too much to pay when the deceased will have paid tax on their income while alive? Do you believe that it is fair in order to cover the cost of our Court system?  It has been noted that the current £155 adequately covers the running costs of the Probate Registry, therefore, it may be appropriate to increase the Court fees in other areas of the law where there is a lack of resources.  In juxtapose, you may decide that an increase in one area of our system is necessary to prevent the collapse of the other.

Although there is a great deal of criticism, it is likely that this fee structure will come into place in April / May 2017.  Would this affect you?  Do you believe that those who have died leaving a larger Estate should pay a greater share to the Court?  Remember, you have a voice!  You are able to have your say in these matters by visiting your local Member of Parliament.

It is a contentious issue, but arguments to the contrary may well be moot, given the likelihood that the proposed increase will become the new increase.