Update on new probate fees
The government released its latest plans to change the structure of probate fees in July. Its consultation document Align probate fees with cost recovery provides further information on the new pricing structure and invites comments on its proposals.
We discussed previously proposed reforms to the probate fee structure and the requirement to pay “probate fees” as part of the post-death probate (grant) application process. of a person here. The consultation document describes the government’s previous proposals as “much broader in scope.” If they had been introduced, they would have represented a substantial increase in probate fees. After consulting on its previous reforms, the government announced a more modest increase in the fee structure for probate courts. The consultation document acknowledges that previous plans were “withdrawn” after consultation and feedback on proposals received by the government.
The consultation document suggests that the probate fee will drop from £ 155 (for applications made by professional advisers) and £ 215 (for applications made by individuals) to a flat rate of £ 273 for all applicants. These changes will result in an overall increase in fees of £ 118 and £ 58 respectively for professional and personal applicants.
Previous government reforms have also proposed to expand the value of these exempt estates from £ 5,000 to £ 50,000. The consultation document makes no reference to these proposals and simply states that “probate applications for estates under £ 5,000 would continue to be exempt from paying a fee” and notes other supports available to those who have. need help paying the fees.
The consultation document indicates that the proposed increase is intended to achieve three key objectives:
- this will remove the gap in how fees are billed (which currently differ depending on who applies)
- this will remove the need for a public subsidy for the probate application process, as the processing of applications currently costs the HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) more than the fees it receives
- it will increase the income of the HMCTS, finance its legal services and provide access to justice. The consultation document notes that the increase in probate court fees will increase from an additional £ 23 million to £ 25million for HMTCS in a typical year.
The consultation period ends for responses on September 23, 2021. A confirmed date for the introduction of the new tariff structure is not provided, but the consultation document indicates that it is expected to be introduced in early 2022. All change will require changes to existing legislation.
Given the substantial increases in probate fees originally suggested in previous proposals, we are pleased that the proposed new increases, while not insignificant, are relatively modest. As part of the consultation process, we would welcome further clarification as to why this fee increase is necessary at this time, especially when further cost reductions and efficiencies are introduced in the certification service. For example, the majority of probate applications are now made online and a number of district registries have already been closed to reduce overhead costs.
We remain concerned about the persistent delays in obtaining the grants. We have been repeatedly informed of delays in processing grants and backlogs from various district accreditation registries and these delays are reflected in our own experiences. In addition, new processes, such as an increased waiting period of four weeks between the submission of certain inheritance tax forms (if payment is required) and the authorized submission of the grant application, have lengthened the time it may take to apply for and receive the final grant.