The government has proposed a new tiered system of probate fees in England and Wales, based on the value of the deceased’s estate, rather than the current flat fee of £215.
Flat rate probate fees abolished
Probate fees are due when the executor of an estate applies for a grant of probate. This is necessary to gather in estate assets and distribute them to beneficiaries as directed by the deceased’s will.
It can only be avoided where assets pass exclusively from one partner to another, or an estate is worth less than £5,000.
Currently, probate fees are £215 per personal application, irrespective of the size of the estate concerned. For applications made through a solicitor, the rate is set at £155.
Under new rules proposed by the government, the system of probate fees would change, to one based on the value of the deceased’s estate. In Scotland, the equivalent Confirmation process continues with a flat rate fee for eligible estates (currently £225).
Find out more: Which? Probate – we can guide you through each step of the probate process
New probate fee rules
Under the new system, estates with a value of less than £50,000 will be exempt from probate fees altogether. This is a tenfold hike in the current probate threshold. It would mean that an estimated 30,000 estates a year would escape a probate charge.
Estates worth more than £50,000 will face probate fees which rise as the value of the estate increases:
- For estates worth more than £50,000 but less than £300,000, the new probate fee will be £300
- For estates worth more than £300,000 but less than £500,000, the new probate fee will be £1,000
- For estates worth more than £500,000 but less than £1m, the new probate fee will be £4,000.
The new probate fee continues to rise until it reaches an eye-watering £20,000 for estates worth over £2m (see table for full details). In all cases, the fee is in addition to any inheritance tax due.
|Proposed probate fee increases|
|Value of estate||Proposed probate fee||Current probate fee||Increase|
|Below £50,000||£0||£215||n/a (£215 less)|
Increased government revenue
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has criticised the proposal, calling it a ‘revenue raising exercise, unrelated to the costs of the service provided’. Others have called it a ‘stealth tax’.
Each year, more than 250,000 applications are submitted for a grant of probate. Fees currently raise £46m, but the proposed fee increases would raise an extra £256m a year for the courts service.
The consultation period for the proposals closed on 1 April 2016, but final details, including the date from which the changes will apply, have yet to be announced.
Launching the consultation, Justice Minister Shailesh Vara described the proposals as ‘necessary’ and ‘enabling investment which will transform the courts and tribunals service’.