Measures to raise probate fees to as much as £6,000 will this week go before a committee of MPs, including justice minister Lucy Frazer QC for the government and shadow minister Gloria De Piero for the opposition.
On Thursday, the Fourteenth Delegated Legislation Committee is to consider a statutory instrument (SI) applying a sliding scale of probate charges. If the committee approves the instrument goes before the House of Commons where it will, barring any objections, be passed. The changes would come into force in April.
Under the plans, probate charges will be linked to the size of the estate with the wealthiest estates (those valued at more than £2m) facing a £6,000 charge. It would replace the current flat fee of £215, or £155 for those applying through a solicitor, on estates of any size.
Speaking to the Gazette ahead of the committee hearing the Institute of Legacy Management said it is disappointed that the government has decided to press ahead despite the fact that it has, along with The Law Society and House of Lords, raised concerns. ‘We would still ask MP’s to consider whether the charges are justified. We also hope that the government will consider exempting charitable estates from the new charges,’ a spokesperson said.
Simon Davis, Law Society vice-president, said the changes are not in the public interest. ‘The cost to the courts for granting probate does not change whether the estate is worth £50,000 or £2 million,’ he said. ‘The government can call it a service charge or a graduated fee but asking those who have larger estates to pay more is in effect a tax hike through the back door.’
Before Christmas the proposals were approved by the House of Lords. However, peers voted through an amendment to express ‘regret’ at the changes, which they said amounted to a ‘misuse of fee levying power’.
It is the second time the government has tried to alter the way probate fees are calculated. In 2017, it proposed a similar scale that would have raised the top charge to £20,000. The plans were shelved because of the general election.