Plans to increase probate fees significantly have been dropped by the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland. The proposed changes would have increased fees from £155 (for solicitors) or £215 (for lay applicants) to a sliding scale of between £250 and £6,000 depending on the value of the estate.
The proposals were widely criticised as being unfair. The Ministry of Justice had intended the increased fee income to be used to benefit the court system as a whole, rather than the probate registries (probate fees already cover the cost of the probate registries). The increases also would have had a huge financial impact on bereaved families, and on charities which are dependent on legacy income.
Robert Buckland has announced that the plans were not “fair and proportionate” and as such the draft legislation, which had been waiting for parliamentary approval, has been withdrawn. Buckland has stated that “small adjustments” may be made when court fees are next reviewed.
An influx of applications to the probate registries leading up to April 2019, when the fee increases originally were intended to take effect, contributed towards serious delays at the probate registries. Whilst there have been some improvements in service from the probate registries in recent weeks, there is still a way to go, and executors and probate solicitors are experiencing delays of up to 8-12 weeks for a service that used to take two weeks.
As one of the largest probate providers in the country, we at Hugh James welcome the withdrawal of the Probate Fees Order and are relieved that our clients and estate beneficiaries, including charities, will not be burdened with unfair fees.