Probate fee increase should reflect new and tangible improvements to the service
Any increase in probate fees must reflect new and tangible improvements made to the service, the Law Society of England and Wales said today as it responded to the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) consultation to hike fees for probate applications.
The current fees are £155 for professional users and £215 for non-professional users. These would change to one single probate fee of £273 for all applications.
“While we support the MoJ’s overall aim to make a simpler, more streamlined process for users of the probate service, and we understand funds are needed to facilitate this, we do question why the UK government has decided to increase fees at this time,” said Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce.
In July, HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) reported it had received 15,965 digital probate applications and 6,883 paper applications. That same month, 22,375 grants of probate were issued.*
I. Stephanie Boyce added: “Court closures, the digitisation strategy and increased fees across various court jurisdictions have already produced savings and income for the court systems.
“Any hike in fees now must reflect new and tangible improvements made to the service. At the very least, a commitment from the UK government that revenue from this increase will be used for probate service improvements.
“In 2020, the probate application service moved almost entirely online. Once this becomes the norm and once the immediate effects of the pandemic have settled, we recommend the UK government reviews the fees on a periodic basis.
“The UK government should also implement a minimum service level standard for applications. If the service drops below that standard on an individual application, then there should be an automatic reimbursement of a percentage of the fee.
“It is no secret the probate service has faced delays for people applying for probate grants or letters of administration. In 2020, people had to wait 12 to 14 weeks on average to receive their grant. This is unacceptable, the service must be timely and allow executors to settle a loved one’s estate without additional burden during an already difficult time.
“Our members have also told us that since the online probate service was made available to all professional users in October 2019, they’ve experienced issues with the online system, communication issues with HMCTS, errors on issued grants and property transactions have been impacted due to delays in grant of probate.
“The service also experienced an unexpected loss of staff in the spring which hit its performance. To avoid a similar reoccurrence, it will be important for HMCTS to ensure they have sufficient resources, with the necessary knowledge and expertise, to handle probate matters.
“It is vital that HMCTS addresses the service issues as a matter of urgency and makes the necessary improvements to provide a service which both legal professionals and citizens have confidence in, before the new fee is introduced.”
Notes to editors
Probate is a legal document that gives executors of the will the relevant authority to deal with the assets and carry out the wishes of the loved one who has died. It is usually required if the estate of the deceased is worth more than £10,000.
From 2 November 2020, it became mandatory for professional users to make all grants of probate applications (where there’s a will) using the online service – My HMCTS.
The public can still apply for grant of probate via paper applications.
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