Eleanor Evans comments on new government proposals to increase the probate court fees to £273, from early 2022.
A grant of probate is a document issued by the probate registry (part of the court service) which gives executors legal authority to administer the estate of a person who has died.
The court fee for a grant of probate is currently £155 for an application made by a professional, and £215 for an application made personally.
The government proposes to bring these two fees in line with each other, with a fee of £273 becoming applicable in early 2022.
Increases to probate fees had been proposed in 2016 and again in 2019, with the proposals being shelved by the government on both occasions. Those proposals were much more drastic, involving sliding scales of fees of up to £20,000.
The current proposals are justified by the government on the basis that the probate service is currently operating at a loss, and the increased fee will enable the service to cover its costs.
Interestingly, the 2019 proposals had been intended to generate fees that would subsidise the court service as a whole. At that time, the income from probate fees covered the cost of the probate service – it was not loss-making, as it apparently is now.
Since 2019, the probate service has introduced new forms and a new online application system, and has been re-structuring, with local probate registries being closed. These factors, along with the previous fee proposals, have contributed to serious backlogs in grants of probate being issued.
We will watch the progress of the government consultation with interest.