For the history on this, see our previous blog posts on “Probate Fees” and “Probate Fees – Again” last year. You would think that, when the government has floated the possibility of a massive increase in probate fees, taking the cost well above what is required to provide the service, and it has been widely criticised by the legal profession and bodies such as STEP, and the parliamentary statutory instruments committee has raised a question on whether the ministry of Justice can legally do it at all, and the idea has been quietly dropped ahead of an imminent election, that would be the end of it.
Not so, apparently. In the wake of the budget (not announced at the time but quietly slipped out on Monday 5th November) the Ministry of Justice has announced that it is, once again, laying a statutory instrument before the House of Commons to increase the fees payable when people apply for probate.
The sliding scale of fees still massively exceeds the amount needed to cover the administration costs of running the probate registries, but is effectively a tax to cross-fund other parts of the Courts and Tribunals Service budget.
Under the new, reduced sliding schedule of fees, the costs will be as follows:
|Value of Estate||New Fee||% Change (from £215)|
|Up to £5,000||£0||0%|
|£5,000 – £50,000||£0||-100%|
|£50,001 – £300,000||£250||+16%|
|£300,001 – £500,000||£750||+249%|
|£500,001 – £1m||£2,500||+1,063%|
|£1m – £1.6m||£4,000||+1,760%|
|£1.6m – £2m||£5,000||+2,226%|
Thus, if the estate is worth less than £50,000 and you probably don’t need a grant of probate at all, you don’t have to pay for one, but any estate involving a reasonable family home in the South East of England with no mortgage on it is going to be hit for £2,500 plus. Bear in mind that this applies to assets passing under the probate process, whether or not they are exempt from inheritance tax. Cue a lot of irate farmers. Presumably the government has, this time, consulted on whether the statutory instrument is intra vires: if not, there’ll be red faces all around.
In the United States, there is an easy answer for high probate fees and taxes – the probate trust. I wonder if we will see the same here?