The Government has announced that probate fees will be increased by 3,721% from 1 April 2019. This a rehash of the proposal made in March 2017 which was only abandoned because a general election was called before the Government could get the proposal through Parliament. We warned at the time that the Government would look to reintroduce the proposal and they have now done so. The scale of fees will be:
|£0 – £50,000||£0|
|£50,001 – £300,000||£250|
|£300,001 – £500,000||£750|
|£500,001 – £1,000,000||£2,500|
|£1,000,001 – £1,600,000||£4,000|
|£1,600,001 – £2,000,000||£5,000|
Although the top fee has been reduced from £20,000 to £6,000, the increase is wholly unjustified. The Probate Service already covers its costs from the present fee of £155 for applications made through solicitors. The Government is using the increased fee to subsidise other parts of the Court Service. The press are rightly calling it a tax. The effect is that a £1 million estate left to a surviving spouse or charity, which would be exempt from inheritance tax, will now incur a payment of £2,500 to the Government.
A considerable body of legal opinion considers that an increase of this amount is not authorised by Act of Parliament and it may well be challenged in the courts. In the meantime, if you have concerns about this, please write to your MP.