The government’s proposed increase to probate fees – from the current £215 to a potential maximum of £20,000 – have been scrapped, or at least put on hold, as there will not be sufficient time for the regulations to pass through parliament before the snap general election.
Given the speed with which the government took the Statutory Instrument through the Commons on Wednesday 19 April 2017, there were real concerns that the measure was going to be pushed through with little debate or scrutiny.
As late as 20 April 2017 the Ministry of Justice appeared to maintain that the government was still planning to proceed with the probate fee proposals as originally circulated. A move which would have seen fees rise as from May this year, with the introduction of a sliding scale starting with Estates of over £50,000.00 and less than £300,000.00 paying a fee of £300.00, and at the other end of the scale Estates of over £2million paying £20,000.00
Earlier this month, a committee of MPs and peers questioned whether the changes were legal, suggesting that the new charges appeared to have the hallmarks of taxes rather than fees. That issue remains unresolved and it is still unclear to say if the scheme would be resurrected if the prime minister is re-elected with a significant majority.
In the meantime, the abandonment, even temporarily, of the planned increases will come as a huge relief for bereaved families and their legal advisors. Should the Ministry of Justice reconsider these proposals after 8 June 2017, the hope is that it will pay due regard to the strong legal opinion that any increase in probate fees on the scale envisaged in the proposals should not be introduced without fresh legislation.
Enoch Evans LLP Private Client department contains specialist Solicitors who are experts on advising upon Estate Planning. If you wish to discuss the above, or any other matter regarding Estate Planning or Estate Administration please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our Wills, Tax and Probate Team.