The government has scrapped a controversial move to put up probate fees that would have seen wealthy families paying thousands of pounds to administer a loved one’s estate after their death.
Instead, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland says he will carry out a review that will see a small fee adjustment to cover rising probate costs.
Under the plans, first revealed in 2016, the minimum probate fee would have increased from £215 to £250 for estates worth less than £500,000.
But for larger estates valued at more than £1 million, the fee soared to £4,000 and rose to £6,000 for estates worth more than £2 million.
Probate fees are charged in addition to inheritance tax, which starts for estates worth £325,000, although reliefs and allowances can apply to increase the nil-rate tax band.
Plenty of objections
“While fees are necessary to properly fund our world-leading courts system, they must be fair and proportionate,” said Buckland.
“We will withdraw these proposals, and keep the current system while we take a closer look at these court fees as part of our annual wider review.”
The plan to raise probate fees has had a rough ride with plenty of objections from tax experts and lawyers.
Many, like the Law Society, complained the fees were a subsidy for the courts service and went far beyond the cost of providing a service to grieving families.
Fees are necessary
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Fees are necessary to properly fund our world-leading courts system, but we have listened carefully to concerns around changes to those charged for probate and will look at them again as part of a wider review to make sure all fees are fair and proportionate.”
Probate is the process of dealing with someone’s assets and debts in accordance with a will when they have died.
To act as an executor – the person who pays the bills and makes sure the deceased’s final wishes are obeyed – the estate must ask for a grant of probate from the government. The probate fee is paid upfront before permission to distribute assets is given.