The UK government has re-introduced proposals to fund the courts service via charging higher probate fees. The proposals emerged late yesterday, a week after the budget.
While the headline charges are less extortionate than were proposed last year, for an estate of GBP300,001 – GBP500,000 the fee will rise 249 per cent to GBP750, and for a GBP1 million estate, the fee will rise to GBP4,000, an increase of 1,760 per cent (see table below).
According to 2014/15 figures, 261,500 estates went to probate, of which only 35,000 were under GBP50,000. This indicates that 85 per cent of estates, where probate applies, will therefore see an increase in fees.
|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%|
The new charges bear no relation to the cost of probate, and are simply another form of taxation, sneaked in through the back door.
The government has failed to explain why it is choosing to place this burden on bereaved families, many of whom will have spent months or years paying expensive care fees for their elderly relatives. It is this group which has been singled out to shoulder the cost of the courts service via this additional tax, to be paid on top of IHT and legal expenses.
The government still plans to try and introduce this measure without any proper debate via statutory instrument. STEP has obtained a legal opinion which confirms that, given the tax nature of this measure, this is an abuse of the parliamentary process, a view shared by the House of Commons Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (link below).
We will continue to press for a fairer and more transparent approach to probate fees reform.
- Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments: Non-Contentious Probate Fees Order 2017.