Solicitors now have to publish guidance as to the fees charged in the administration of an estate on their website.
It is not always necessary to have a Grant of Probate or letters of administration, depending on the assets held by the deceased. Therefore court fees are only payable when the grant is needed. Currently £155 if applied for by a solicitor or £215 by an individual.
The Government are looking to increase fees and it has been outlined in their consultation paper that although income raised through probate fees has reached full cost recovery (£46million pa), in the current financial climate it is necessary to ask those that can afford it to pay a greater contribution towards the running costs of (all) the courts.
The new fees will be on a sliding scale dependent on the value of the estate of the deceased.
Criticism has centred around the fact that there will be no change in the service provided by the court. Executors may have to obtain funding for the court fees and any inheritance tax due to obtain probate and those paying £1,000 in fees will be paying approximately 400% above the actual cost of the service, contrary to guidance the Government gives to itself about not differentiating between users in terms of the cost of supply of a service.
The joint committee on statutory instruments have cast doubt on the validity of the proposals and have said that the fees have the hallmark of taxes rather than fees.
However the proposals now are that the following fees would apply to estates worth the following value:
Less than 50,000k – £0
£50,000 to 300,000 – £250
£300,000 to 500,000 – £750
£500000 to 1 million – £2,500
£1million to 1.6 million – £4,000
£1.6 million to 2 million – £5,000
£2 million and above – £6,000
Where estates are property rich but cash poor finding this level of fee may add to the stress that an executor feels at what is already an emotional time.
The House of Commons has still to look at this and there is no definite date yet.