Changes to Probate Fees

The planned changes in the ironically named Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order have created a fair amount of contention since it was announced that the cost of administering a loved one’s estate could increase by up to 3,771%.

The current cost of a Grant of Probate for an estate valued at over £5,000 is a flat fee of £215 for a personal application; or £155 if you use a solicitor regardless of whether the estate is worth £10,000 or £10,000,000.

This is set to change dramatically under new proposed rules with what the Law Society is calling a ‘stealth tax’.

There is some good news for estates with a value of less than £50,000, as under the new regime there will no fee payable. According to the Ministry of Justice’s calculations this means an additional 25,000 estates will benefit from a free Grant of Probate (although the effect of this change is arguable as many of these estates may not require a Grant of Probate in the first place as banks are frequently willing to release cash up to £50,000 with just a copy of the will and a death certificate).

For all other estates, however, it is bad news. Estates with a value greater than £50,000 will see an (enormous) increase in the cost of obtaining a grant as the following table shows:

 

Value of the Estate New Fee % Increase compared to £155 fee
£50,001 – £300,000 £250 61%
£300,000.01 – £500,000 £750 383%
£500,00.01 – £1,000,000 £2,500 1,513%
£1,000,000.01 – £1,600,000 £4,000 2,481%
£1,600,000.01 – £2,000,000 £5,000 3,126%
£2,000,000+ £6,000 3,771%

These changes were set to come into force at the beginning of April 2019, but the Ministry of Justice confirmed that the timeline has been pushed back due to Parliament’s time being devoted to discussing other issues (at least Brexit is proving useful for something). So for the time being, save for any formal objection, the legislation will pass as soon as Parliament has capacity.

For people administering an estate, the moral of the story is to act quickly! When the changes are put in place, estates over £50,000 will pay significantly more. The process of making a Grant of Probate application can take many weeks, so you should obtain legal advice as soon as possible in order to avoid the change in fees.

For help with making an application for a Grant of Probate, or assistance in the administration of an estate, please contact a member of our Private Client team.