Legal Eagle: Changes in probate charges

Liz Truss
Liz Truss
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Q. Probate fees are going up soon I have heard. What exactly is happening?

A. When someone dies somebody else needs to deal with anything the deceased leaves. What is left by the deceased is called “the estate”. Often in order to do this you need to take out a grant of probate in the estate – the current level below which you do NOT need the grant is £5000.

If you need a grant and are a relative or friend of the deceased it costs £215.

This is scheduled to change soon. There will be a sliding scale of fees based on estate value. If less than £50,000 the cost will be zero. The government says that applies to 58% of all estates in England and Wales. Other fees include:-

Estate value £50,000 to £300,000 – fee of £300

Estate £1 million to £1.6 million – fee of £8000

So the new fees will affect large value estates much more than low value estates. And government figures show that apart from the 58% of estates worth less than £50,000 23% are worth £50,000 to £300,000 meaning 81% of all estates will be paying either nothing or £85 more than the £215 current fee.

Liz Truss the Lord Chancellor is in charge of our legal system. The new law will come in on her say-so. The joint committee on statutory instruments is made up of MPs and looks at whether or not some laws are being made correctly. It has published a report saying there is doubt in this case.

The feeling is that an increase from £215 to £8000 or more (the highest fee will in fact be £20,000) is not really a “fee” (a word meaning a charge for the provision of a service) but more like a tax considering fees charged for these grants go to the Government. Taxes are not supposed to come in on the say-so alone of the Lord Chancellor or any other single person; Parliament is meant to look at them. And normally proposed new taxes are campaigned for by the relevant political party in the run-up to a general election – which did not happen here.

Many may say: “well – I am not leaving a million quid when I die so I’m not bothered”. But what if the committee is right and Ms Truss is acting beyond her powers? Maybe next time a politician does that perhaps in relation to some other law it WILL affect you.

Presently there is no sign the Government will change its mind so these new fees look good to go.

l Ben Hoare Bell LLP has many specialist Solicitors who can offer legal advice in a range of legal areas. If you require legal advice please phone a Solicitor on 0191 565 3112 or email advice@benhoarebell.co.uk. Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for more information.