It is unjustifiable to increase fees for probate applications when grieving relatives are still suffering because of ‘significant delays’ to the service, the Law Society has said.
Under proposals published by the Ministry of Justice yesterday, fees to apply for a grant of probate will increase from £155 and £215 – for probate professionals and individuals respectively – to a flat fee of £273 for all applicants.
‘The MoJ’s persistence of raising fees in the probate service is worrying, particularly when there are continued and significant delays to the probate service,’ said Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce. ‘With so many applications now online and the expansion of court and tribunal service centres to centralise administration, it is unclear why probate service overheads have increased to justify such a significant fee hike.’
The Law Society said that, in 2020, people had to wait 12 to 14 weeks on average to receive their grant of probate. ‘This is unacceptable, the service must be timely and allow executors to settle a loved one’s estate.’
According to statistics for January to March 2021, the average time between submitting an application and a grant being issued was eight weeks. However, the probate service’s workload increased significantly during the winter wave of the pandemic and HMCTS has grappled with a surge in applications since the end of February.
‘Any increase in fees must be reflected in the service provided,’ Boyce said. ‘The online service was specifically designed to streamline the process and the UK government must get the system working efficiently before upping costs to both professional and non-professional users alike.’
The MoJ said that the proposals will not generate any profit for the government and are ‘significantly different’ to the proposed fee hike scrapped in 2019 which would have put the charge up to as much as £6,000.
An MoJ spokesperson said: ‘Every penny from these fees will go towards the cost of processing applications – meaning taxpayers will no longer be forced to subsidise them.’