The Law Society has welcomed the government’s u-turn on a probate fee hike, which would have seen bereaved families paying up to £6,000 for grants of probate.
Under the government’s proposals, probate fees would have risen from the current fixed fee of £215 – or £155 with a solicitor – to a sliding scale of up to £6,000 depending on the size of the estate.
However, justice secretary Robert Buckland has abandoned plans introduced by Theresa May, which were due to come into force next year.
Several organisations, including the Law Society, campaigned against the proposed fee hike and Buckland told the Daily Mail that he had ‘listened very carefully to the strong views aired on proposed new probate fees’.
He said: ‘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.’
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson added: ‘Fees are necessary to properly fund our world-leading courts system, but we have listened carefully to concerns around changes to those charged for probate and will look at them again as part of a wider review to make sure all fees are fair and proportionate.’
President of the Law Society Simon Davis said: ‘A hike in probate fees would have been a tax on grief. We campaigned vigorously against the increase on behalf of bereaved families and are relieved the government has listened to reason.
‘It is inherently unfair to expect the bereaved to fund other parts of the courts and tribunal service when they have no other option but to apply for probate.
‘In its review of court fees government should bear in mind that it is a false economy to impose charges that go beyond cost recovery. Equal access to justice is a fundamental part of the rule of law.’
Probate fees were due to increase in April, prompting a spike in probate applications in March. The surge in applications coincided with the rollout of malfunctioning government software, and solicitors subsequently faced delays of up to 13 weeks for grants of probate. Last month, the Law Society pledged to keep to fighting the backlog.