An increase to probate fees which was due to come into effect on 1 April 2019 has been delayed by the Ministry of Justice this week. For the second time in 2 years, the Ministry of Justice had proposed reforming probate fees with the latest proposal resulting in rises of more than 3,000%.
The reforms that were due to come into force on 1 April will now be delayed. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice confirmed that the reforms would come into force ‘as soon as possible’ but that Brexit matters were taking precedence.
Under the plans opposed by the Law Society, probate fees would no longer be fixed (currently £215 for a personal application or £155 for those applying through a solicitor) and would instead be assessed according to the size of the estate. The wealthiest estates (those valued at more than £2m) would be charged £6,000.
The proposed increase in fees has been labelled a “stealth tax” by critics. The Ministry of Justice is attempting to present the fee as a cost of processing probate applications but the reality is that the probate application process is the same regardless of the value of the estate and would penalise larger estates, many of which are already subject to inheritance tax at 40%.
Unless there is a formal objection, the statutory instrument proposing the increases will pass unchallenged however the Labour party has confirmed that it does intend to object to the statutory instrument which will then give the House of Commons the opportunity to vote on the proposed fee increases.
The date of 1 April when the statutory instrument was due to be laid has now been delay and there is currently no date proposed for the reforms.
Sarah Clowes, TEP
Partner, Clowes & Co. Solicitors
28 March 2019