Labelled a “steal tax” by critics, the current flat fee of £215 (or £155 if applying through a solicitor) for probate is set to increase from April 2019 as follows:-
Estates worth £50,000 up to £300,000 will pay £250, a rise of £35
Estates worth from £300,000 up to £500,000 will pay £750, a rise of £535
Estates worth from £500,000 up to £1 million will pay £2,500, a rise of £2,285
Estates worth from £1 million to £1.6 million will pay £4,000, a rise of £3,785
Estates worth from £1.6m up to £2m will pay £5,000, a rise of £4,784
Estates worth more than £2 million will pay £6,000, a rise of £5,785
It is worth noting that estates worth less than £50,000 will pay nothing, unlike the current system which charges all estates above £5,000.
The Ministry of Justice presented the fee as a cost of processing probate cases but, as the work involved by the Probate Registry is the same, regardless of the size of the estate, the newly tiered charging structure, which clearly penalises larger estates, is more analogous with a tax. It is therefore understandable why it has been labelled as a “stealth tax”.
By classifying the new charges as a fee and not as a tax meant that a statutory instrument could be passed to bring it into force (as opposed to a bill which receives much more scrutiny in Parliament).
It is expected that the increased charges will raise an additional £185 million a year by 2022/23 which is, according to Justice Minister Lucy Frazer, essential to fund court services. It would however seem unfair to many to expect the bereaved to essentially fund other parts of the Court and Tribunal service, especially when they have no other option but to.
Whilst the increased fees have not yet to come into force, they are expected to be introduced at any time. The new fees will be based on the date when the Probate Registry receives the application for probate, rather than on the date of death.