The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) today conceded that controversial reforms to probate fees, which would result in some rising by more than 3,000%, will not come into force on 1 April as originally intended.

An MoJ spokesperson confirmed that the statutory instrument (SI) bringing the revised fee scheme into force would not be laid this week. The spokesperson said the reforms would come into force ‘as soon as possible’ but that Brexit matters were taking precedence.  

Under the plans, opposed by the Law Society, probate charges would be linked to the size of the estate. The wealthiest estates (those valued at more than £2m) would be charged £6,000. The current flat fee is £215, or £155 for those applying through a solicitor.

Usually, unless there is a formal objection, an SI passes unchallenged – all that is required is that the name of the SI is read out before the House and for no-one to shout ‘object’.

However, Labour has indicated it will object to the SI. The lodging of an objection gives the House of Commons the chance to vote on the proposals. The last SI to fall to such a vote was a measure concerning the National Dock Labour Scheme in 1978,

Opponents of the probate proposals also include the Liberal Democrats and two Lords committees, which described them as a misuse of fee levying power. 

As yet there is no date for when the SI will be laid. SIs usually come into force 21 days after approval so even if it were passed this week there would be no  time for the fees to be introduced on 1 April.