Ministers’ decision to allow a probate fees increase to lapse was today welcomed by the Law Society of England and Wales, which ran a campaign to stop the fee hike.*
Under the government’s proposals, probate fees would have risen from the current fixed fee of £215 – or £155 with a solicitor – to a sliding scale of up to £6,000 depending on the size of the estate.
“Not only would these charges have been excessive but they could have caused significant cash flow issues for the bereaved,” said Law Society president Simon Davis.
“The cost to the courts does not change whether an estate is worth £50,000 or £2 million. Asking larger estates to pay more would have upped the level of inheritance tax by the back door.
“The government’s decision to raise probate fees via statutory instrument was particularly concerning as it would have allowed the fee increases to bypass full parliamentary debate. This would have set a dangerous precedent.”
Simon Davis added that raising probate fees to cross-subsidise the courts is not the way to fund justice.
“It is inherently unfair to expect the bereaved to fund other parts of the courts and tribunal service, particularly in circumstances where they have no other option but to apply for probate.
“Should the order be reintroduced, we will continue to campaign against its introduction. This is a tax on grief.”
Notes to editors
*The motion to approve the Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order had been scheduled for a vote in the House of Commons since February.
The prorogation of Parliament means that this motion to approve has fallen and – should the government want to proceed with the fee increase – they would have to reintroduce the vote in the next session.
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