Ministers have decided to plough ahead with new probate fees in what is widely being seen as a stealth tax on inheritance.
Law Society of England and Wales president Christina Blacklaws said: “The last time the government proposed a change in fees there was widespread condemnation from both the legal profession and consumers.
“To make it worse, the government is proposing to avoid the scrutiny of parliament by introducing the changes via statutory instrument.
“They can call it a service charge or a graduated fee, but what it amounts to is an additional inheritance tax.
“The cost to the courts for providing a grant of probate does not change whether the size of the estate is £10,000 or £1 million. Making those who have larger estates pay more is essentially just increasing the level of inheritance tax by stealth.”
Christina Blacklaws said the suggestion the money would be fed back into the courts system was simply an attempt to distract from wider problems.
“The government had an opportunity at the budget just last week to increase funding for the justice system after almost a decade of austerity,” she said.
“Instead they chose to continue cuts which have seen thousands denied the ability to access justice.”
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