On Monday 14th October the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, announced that the proposal to dramatically increase probate fees will be withdrawn after months of awaiting parliamentary approval.

The new increased charges were dubbed a ‘death tax’ and would have meant that instead of charging the current fixed fee of £215 for all estates, the fee would change depending on the value of the deceased’s estate before Inheritance Tax. The tiered fees would have started from £250 and could have increased by up to £6,000. Additionally, the current estate value threshold would have been raised from £5,000 to £50,000 which would have meant that every year approximately 25,000 estates could have avoided probate fees.

The new charges were intended to generate £185million a year to fund improvements to the court system but critics argued that the figures did not reflect the true administration costs. The government was also accused of sneaking the measure through parliament without a debate or vote by calling them ‘fees’.

Several organisations have been campaigning against the proposal for months and as a result, in a statement given to the Daily Mail, Buckland said he had “listened very carefully to the strong views aired on proposed new probate fees”. He added: “While fees are necessary to properly fund our world-leading courts system, they must be fair and proportionate. We will withdraw these proposals, and keep the current system while we take a closer look at these court fees as part of our annual wider review.”

The next annual review of the court fees will instead look at making only small changes to cover the costs of probate applications and any plans to considerably increase probate fees is off the table completely.

Not only did the proposal cause controversy within the industry, but it also triggered a rush of probate applicants that were submitted early to prevent the rise in costs which in result, contributed to a serious backlog at the Probate Service back in May 2019. Following the scrapped proposal, HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is now expected to take action and address the significant delays that still remain a concern.

Source: Kings Court Trust

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