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Probate fees shake-up to send costs soaring for large estates

Fees will be charged on a sliding scale between £0 and £6,000

The cost of applying for probate will rise by thousands of pounds for the wealthiest estates from April 2019, while some will see fees scrapped altogether, under plans revealed by the Ministry of Justice this week.

Currently, all estates pay a flat £215 fee, unless they are worth less than £5,000.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will introduce sliding-scale fees from April 2019, which will see the largest estates paying up to £6,000.

Which? explains the changes and how you might be affected if you’re the executor of an estate.

How much will probate fees be?

Under the new system, there will be no fees to apply for probate for estates worth less than £50,000, though everyone else will pay more. The MoJ says that this will remove fees for 25,000 estates.

Fees will be set at £250 for estates worth less than £300,000 and at £750 for those worth less than £500,000 – making up more than 80% of all estates.

But for the 20% of estates worth more, fees will rise at least tenfold, with those worth less than £1m paying £2,500. Those worth more than £2m will pay as much as £6,000.

The changes are subject to Parliamentary approval.

Value of estate (before inheritance tax) Proposed fee
Up to £50,000 £0
£50,001-£300,000 £250
£300,001-£500,000 £750
£500,001-£1,000,000 £2,500
£1,000,001-£1,600,000 £4,000
£1,600,001-£2,000,000 £5,000
£2,000,001+ £6,000

Why are probate fees changing?

Fees are being increased to fund the courts service, which cost £1.6bn in 2016-17, but only recovered £740 million in fees, according to the Ministry of Justice. The new probate system is expected to raise an extra £145m in 2019-20 and £185m by 2022-23.

The government had previously planned to overhaul the probate system in May 2017,  but postponed the changes in the light of the snap general election.

Though the new fee system will see large hikes for the wealthiest estates, it’s less severe than the changes previously proposed, which would have seen estates worth more than £2 million paying up to £20,000.

Justice Ministry Lucy Frazer said: ‘We have listened closely to concerns around early proposals. Fees will never be more than 0.5% of the estate’s value, and are recoverable from the estate.

‘Fees will be set at a level to ensure that they will only be paid by those who can afford them, with all income going directly to our courts and tribunals.’

Executors will need to find probate fees

Though probate fees can be recovered from the estate, some executors may have to pay thousands of pounds up front before they recover their costs.

The Ministry of Justice says it will publish a document explaining payment options for executors, and outlining the financial support available to those who would struggle to cover the fees ahead of probate being granted.


What are probate fees?

Probate fees are due when an estate’s executor applies for a grant of probate, which gives them permission to gather someone’s assets and distribute them to beneficiaries, as directed by the deceased’s will.

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.

Fees will not be charged if the estate is worth less than the threshold (currently set at £5,000).

If the whole estate is passed onto a spouse, known as survivorship, you don’t need to apply for probate and therefore no fees are charged.

Free probate checklist

If you are the executor or administrator for someone’s estate, it is your responsibility to deal with the assets they leave behind.

This can be intimidating or overwhelming at a time when you’re coping with the death of a loved one.

To help you navigate the process, you can download a free probate checklist from Which? Legal probate.

Your essential probate checklist

Breaks down every stage of the process into manageable tasks.

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