A planned increase in probate fees has now been scrapped because of the general election. The Ministry of Justice intended to impose fees of up £20,000 on estates in England and Wales from May 1, rising from the current flat fee of either £155 or £215.
However, there is now no time for the statutory instrument required to steer the new legislation through Parliament because of Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to call an early general election for June 8.
A spokesman for the MoJ told Best Value Probate that any rise in probate fees is “now a matter for the new government”.
The MoJ carried out a year-long consultation on increasing probate fees, the charges imposed on the executor of a will by the government where the estate is worth more than £5,000.
Justice Secretary Liz Truss, who is also the Lord Chancellor, announced in March that a sliding scale of fees would apply from May 1. Under the proposed new system, no fee would have been charged on estates worth less than £50,000, while those worth from £50,000 to £300,000 would have paid up to £300.
But the heftiest fees would have been levelled on those estates worth up to and beyond £2million, potentially attracting a cost of £20,000.
The MoJ had said the new fees were essential to raise up to £300m per year to help run the courts and tribunal systems in England and Wales. If implemented, around 58,000 homes would have been freed from paying any probate fees at all.
Fees that ‘bore the hallmark of taxes rather than fees’
Critics of the proposed change had dubbed it a “stealth tax on death”. A joint committee of MPs and peers also questioned the legality of imposing fees that they said “bore the hallmarks of taxes rather than fees”. The Lord Chancellor cannot impose taxes without Parliament’s permission, according to current law.
The current probate fees system will now remain in place. If an executor uses a solicitor to register an estate, the fee is £155, while an individual pays £215.
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Frances is the resident writer for Best Value Probate, covering all topics related to wills, estates and probate. If there's a topic or issue you'd like to see covered here, please drop her a line on Frances@searchesuk.co.uk.