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Sense has prevailed… but will it last?

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On 21 April 2017, the Government announced that it would scrap the hugely unpopular increase in probate fees due to there being insufficient time for the proposals to go through Parliament before the general election. We all breathed a sigh of relief, but how long will this last?

The Government’s proposals were to increase the probate fee dependant on the size of the estate of the deceased (currently a £155 flat fee if a solicitor submits the application on behalf of the executors or £210 if the executors submit the application themselves).

The proposals were to increase the fees as follows:

  • Estate between £50,000 – £300,000 = £300
  • Estate between £300,000 – £500,000 = £1,000
  • Estate between £500,000 – £1 million = £4,000 
  • Estate between £1 million – £1.6 million = £8,000 
  • Estate between £1.6 million – £2 million =£12,000 
  • Estate above £2 million = £20,000

The Government argued that this would not have an impact on most married couples or those in a civil partnership, as assets would pass by survivorship rather than requiring a Grant of Probate. However, this did not take into account the enormous number of people who own assets in their sole name, be it Premium Bond or simply a sole account. Depending on the sum(s) held, a Grant of Probate may have been required and therefore the fee would have needed to have been paid.

Various professional bodies were involved in a consultation regarding the planned increase in probate fees and despite a 97% rejection of the proposals, the Government rushed these proposals through on 19 April 2017. However, perhaps in the face of mounting pressure and a petition on the parliamentary petitions site, the Government has now put the proposals on hold for the next Government to consider.

We will keep this matter under review and keep you updated of any change following the general election.

At the same time, the Office of the Public Guardian announced that the fee for registering Lasting Powers of Attorney has reduced, as of 1 April 2017, from £110 to £82. The hope is that this will encourage more people to prepare Lasting Powers of Attorney and the reduction has been made possible by efficiencies with the Office of the Public Guardian. Perhaps these efficiencies could be shared with the Probate Registry.

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