Reforms to increase the cost of a grant of probate application are set to be implemented by the government. First discussed in 2017, the fee increase is now set to take effect in April 2019.
What are the fees for a grant of probate application?
The current application fees are fixed at £215.00 for a personal application and £155.00 if the application is made by a solicitor. This is now to be abolished and a banded scale introduced based on the total value of the estate.
On the 5th of November 2018, Justice Minister Lucy Frazer confirmed that a new banded structure will result in a maximum fee of £6,000 for an estate worth over £2 million. It has been emphasised by the government that fees will never be more than 0.5% of the estate’s value and this is recoverable from the estate.
However, the issue here is that assets are unavailable to executors until they receive the grant of probate. It has yet to be explained how executors will pay the application fees and it raises concerns that this could cause exceptional hardship to those family members making applications.
In terms of more positive changes the reforms will increase the value of estates which are exempt from fees from £5,000 to a more generous £50,000. The government believes that this will increase the amount of families avoiding fees all together.
The fees suggested are also much smaller than those proposed in 2017, decreasing from a suggested maximum threshold of £20,000 to £6,000.
Why change the fees?
The premise behind the suggested hike in fees is that it will generate £145 million a year which will be spent running UK courts and Tribunals. However, there has been criticism that there are to be no changes to the actual application process, therefore no additional work will be generated for the Probate Registry. This has caused critics to question whether an increase in fees is wholly justified.
Government guidance on the particular banding structure has not yet been produced which leaves us currently with an array of unanswered questions. Time will tell if these questions will be fully addressed and executors concerns dispelled.
For more information and advice on the grant of probate application process, please contact Helen Gowin in our Estate Administration & Probate team on 01260 282351.