The Government have today announced that the planned increase in the probate fee will not now take place in May as planned. Currently the probate fee is a flat fee for estates over £5,000 of £155 if a solicitor completes the process. Under the proposed changes, for estates over £50,000 there would have been a £300 fee, £1,000 for those over £300,000, £4,000 for those over £500,000, £8,000 on estates over £1 million, £12,000 for those over £1.6 million and £20,000 for estates over £2 million.
Debbie Duggan, Head of Private Client at BakerLaw LLP and member of Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) said “I am delighted to hear the proposed probate fees have been dropped. It was very clear from the offset that the new system was nothing more than a backdoor tax and the Government had abused its powers in pushing them through under the guise of a fee. To call the new system ‘proportionate’ was frankly ridiculous when you consider that some larger estates were set to see a 13,000% increase in fees. What’s more, by proceeding with the changes, ministers point-blank ignored the views of almost every respondent involved in the consultation process. Since then, Solicitors for the Elderly have campaigned hard, alongside other organisations, to have these changes reviewed. This organisation is made up of over 1,500 lawyers across the country and not one member agreed with the fees.”
“In the meantime, as a profession, we have seen a dramatic increase in enquiries from older and vulnerable people worried about the fees. Our fear was that some people may have been led to attempt to avoid the fees by decreasing the value of their estate, thereby leaving themselves with insufficient assets to provide for the rest of their life. With the current social care crisis facing the country, the unintended consequences of this change could have been disastrous. We are extremely relieved to hear this has now been avoided.”