Bereaved families no longer face the likelihood of an expensive bill when applying for probate, after controversial plans to raise probate fees is scrapped by the government.
The proposal for increasing fees, announced last November, would have seen the current flat-fee system be replaced by a sliding scale of charges.
How probate fees would differ
The current fixed fee system means individuals pay a probate fee of £215, or £155 if using a solicitor. Estates worth under £5,000 are excluded from a charge.
Proposals announced by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) last year, planned to move from this system to one of a tiered structure. Under this new system, fees would related to the size of an estate. This would have raised probate fees to up to £6,000 for some families, a massive 3,370% increase on the current low cost.
The government also proposed raising the threshold for probate fees from £5,000 to £50,000, claiming an estimated 25,000 estates a year would then be removed from paying any fees.
Campaign against the ‘Death Tax’
It has been highlighted by many that these proposed increases were very unfair, and campaigns by tabloid newspapers had even dubbed the charges a “death tax”.
Plans were defended by the MoJ with the claim that the charges were necessary to fund our courts system and tribunal services. However changes would mean an estimated 280,000 families a year paying much higher fees.
Law society president Simon Davis, who took part in the campaign against the increase, said: “It is inherently unfair to expect the bereaved to fund other parts of the courts and tribunal service when they have no other option but to apply for probate.”
Changes to probate fees axed
These changes were originally set to be applied in April this year. However final votes were delayed by Brexit, and a lack of parliamentary time to debate the matter. Justice secretary Robert Buckland has now confirmed that plans would not be implemented.
“While fees are necessary to properly fund our world-leading courts system, they must be fair and proportionate. We will withdraw these proposals and keep the current system while we take a closer look at there court fees as part of our annual wider review.”
Simon Davis welcomed the withdrawal: “We campaigned vigorously against the increase on behalf of bereaved families and are relieved the government has listened to reason.”