The Government has announced that, with effect from April 2019, the Court fees for obtaining Probate could cost up to £6,000, whereas the current fee is less than 5% of this amount.

What is Probate?

When someone passes away the Executors named in the Will or, where there is no Will, the Administrators under intestacy, usually have to obtain a Grant from the Probate Registry authorising them to deal with the estate. This is commonly known as “obtaining Probate,” and involves valuing the assets and ascertaining the debts of the estate, collecting the assets in and paying off those debts, including tax, and distributing the estate to beneficiaries.

How are the fees changing?

The current Court fee to obtain Probate is fixed at a flat rate of £215, or £155 when applying via a Solicitor. There is currently no fee payable for estates with a value of less than £5,000. From April the fee payable will be scaled to the size of the deceased’s estate with the maximum fee of £6,000 being paid for estates worth £2 million or more. The scale is set out in the below table.

Estate Value Proposed Probate Fee
Up to £50,000 or exempt from needing a Grant 0.00
£50,000 to £300,000 £250,00
£300,000 to £500,000 £750,00
£500,000 to £1m £2,500,00
£1m to £1.6m £4,000,00
£1.6m to £2m £5,000,00
over £2m £6,000,00

There is still some good news for small estates. Estates with a value of less than £50,000 will pay no fee at all – the previous cut-off was £5,000 – and it is estimated that this will lead to an additional 25,000 estates a year paying no fee at all. However, most estates will be subject to a substantial increase.

Thankfully the fees are not as high as those that were proposed in 2017 when the Probate fee would have been as high as £20,000 for estates worth over £2million.

Reform or a tax by stealth?

Although the Government has argued that the increased fees are necessary to ensure the proper funding of the Courts system and would improve access to justice for taxpayers, many have questioned the size of the increase in fees, which are far in excess of the cost of the actual service provided. Some commentators have accused the Government of introducing a further tax on death by stealth. The Law Society is strongly opposed to the increase has called on the proposals to be withdrawn.

Regardless of the reasoning, with Inheritance Tax receipts increasing year-on-year, and exceeding £5 billion for the first time in the 2017-18 tax year, it is clear that the cost of dying has only increased.

How we can help

Quite apart from the Court fee increase, the process of obtaining Probate and dealing with an estate can be a lengthy, complex and daunting task, especially if you are dealing with the responsibilities alone. Vyman Solicitors have an experienced team who can advise and guide you on obtaining Probate and all aspects of estate administration. If you would like further advice or guidance then give our Private Client team a call on 0208 429 1010 or contact Matthew Whaley