The UK government had previously proposed that as of 1 May 2017, the costs of applying for probate would change from a flat fee to a percentage charge of the value of the estate. The proposals have now been dropped as the government gears up for election on 8 June, and may even be dropped altogether after the outcome of the election.
The Ministry of Justice has announced that there is not enough time for the relevant statutory instrument to be completed before the election. This creates uncertainty as it is not clear whether the proposals will go ahead even if Theresa May wins.
However, some political sources have suggested that due to the unpopular nature of the proposals, which some have claimed amount to a ‘wealth tax’, any government elected on 8 June will have to think carefully before reintroducing the changes. Moreover, there is an argument that the justice secretary, Liz Truss, would not have had the legal authority to introduce the changes in any event. If the justice secretary had introduced the proposals by way of a statutory instrument as planned, this would likely have been opposed as an ‘unexpected use of the power’ conferred on her.
The current cost of applying for probate is a flat fee of £155 for applicant solicitors and £215 for applicant family or friends. The proposals would have exempted estates worth up to £50,000 from paying any probate fees, but the following tiered fee structure would apply to other estates:
|Estate size||Probate fee|
|up to £50,000||No fee as probate not required|
|£50,000 to £300,000||£300|
|£300,000 to £500,000||£1,000|
|£500,000 to £1m||£4,000|
|£1m to £1.6m||£8,000|
|£1.6m to £2m||£12,000|
It was estimated that the changes would have raised income of £300 million for the Ministry of Justice. Therefore, even if the proposals are scrapped altogether in the wake of the election, it is likely that the Ministry of Justice will be looking at alternative sources of revenue.
There appears to be no U-turn so far on the reduction in fees for registering a Lasting Power of Attorney. The fees were cut from £110 to £82 on 1 April 2017 in a bid to encourage more people to put the documents in place. A Lasting Power of Attorney is a document put in place to allow the ‘donor’ to appoint ‘attorney’ to act on their behalf in the event that they lose the ability to make their own decisions e.g. due to an illness or accident.
The controversial Ministry of Justice scheme to raise £300m a year extra on the fees by charging up to £20,000 for large estates was authorised by the justice secretary, Liz Truss.