Whether you die with or without a Will, in order to administer your estate in the UK your executors or other personal representatives need to apply for a Grant of Representation (what is usually called the “probate” process) and, up until now, the court fees have been relatively modest. The application fee is £155 if the application is made by a solicitor and the slightly longer process for a personal application costs £215. For the very smallest estates (£5,000 net value or less) there is no fee at all. However, the Ministry of Justice has recently issued a consultation paper suggesting a sliding scale of fees, instead.
Estates below £50,000 would be exempt and the Consultation Paper points out that this would mean that 57% of estates would pay no fees. Except, of course, that they have no intention of increasing this limit for many years, meaning that, by “fiscal creep” many more small estates would start to fall within the limit over time.
Above that limit, a sliding scale is proposed as follows:
£50,000 – 300,000: a fee of £300
£300,000-500,000: a fee of £1,000
£500,000-1,000,000: a fee of £4,000
£1,000,000-1,600,000: a fee of £8,000
£1,600,000-2,000,000: a fee of £12,000
£2,000,000 or more: a fee of £20,000
Again, there is no suggestion that these fee bands will be adjusted for inflation over time, so the government’s yield from this new tax (which is effectively what it is, since it bears no relation to the actual costs of the probate process) will rise over time. The new fee scale would raise an estimated £250 million pounds initially, which the MoJ say will be used to fund a new electronic system which will ultimately enable probate applications to be made online.
So, if you are going to die (and you are….) best get on with it.