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Controversial Probate Fee scrapped

View profile for Alice Rowlands
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When someone passes away, the items that they own at the time of their death, such as property and money is collectively known as their estate. The person who is to administer the estate (either the person appointed under the will or possibly the next of kin where there is no will) must apply for what is known as a grant of representation to evidence their authority to administer that estate. This process is commonly referred to as ‘probate’ and entails an application to the Court for the grant to be issued which incurs a fee.

The Government’s proposal

A change to the probate fee structure has been on the Government’s agenda for some time. In November 2018 a proposal was released which would have seen a change from the current flat fee (£155 if applying through a Solicitor or £215 if not), change to a sliding scale with a cost of up to £6,000 where the estate is worth £2 million or more. The proposal was widely criticised by both professionals and the public.

Fortunately, the proposals have been scrapped resulting in one less thing for bereaved families to worry about. The proposal was not considered to be fair and proportionate. It is widely accepted that fees are necessary to assist the funding of our Court system, however, critics felt that this represented more of a tax than a Court fee.

Although the drastic increase has been scrapped, there remains scope for an increase to the flat fee. The next annual review of Court fees will consider making small adjustments to cover the cost of probate applications.

Probate application delays

The proposal introduced in November 2018 was met with a mass of probate applications being submitted early to avoid the increased fee. Around the same time period, the Probate Registry converted to a new data management system, which encountered technical issues. Additionally, an increase in the number of enquiries has taken resources away from probate applications. The combination of difficulties resulted in a significant backlog at the Probate Registry, delaying by several months the process of being able to administer an estate.

After meeting with HM Courts and Tribunal Services, the Law Society has confirmed that the end of the delay is in sight. Almost 7,000 grants are now being issued a week and providing Inheritance tax information is provided, the bulk of applications are being processed within 28 days.  

Overall the last few weeks have seen some welcoming news for probate applications. The scrapping of extortionate fees and the expected end of extensive delays will assist in reducing pressure and worry following the death of a loved one. The probate procedure can be burdensome for bereaved families. If you are unsure what to do, contact our expert Lifetime Planning Team to assist in guiding you through the process.

For more information or for probate advice, please contact our specialist Lifetime Planning Solicitors in:

  • Swansea: 01792 773773
  • Cardiff: 02920 225472
  • Carmarthen: 01267 234022
  • Caerphilly: 02920 860628
  • Cowbridge: 01446 771742
  • Haverfordwest: 01437 764723
  • Fishguard: 01348 873671