Probate Fee Increase: Transition from the Old Scheme

January 2022 brought a probate fee increase to a single flat rate of £273 for all applicants. We look at what the probate fee increase means for a lay executor.

The probate application fee increase replaces a previous system with two different fees. Individuals applying for probate themselves £215, opposed to a reduced fee of £155 paid by probate professionals. The scheme was designed to encourage the use of professionals. In order to carry out an often complex process of obtaining a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration and winding up a deceased’s estate.

The higher individual charge reflected the larger amount of work sometimes required by the Probate Registry in dealing with mistakes or incorrect applications.

Current probate fees

From 26 January 2022, an application for a Grant of Probate costs £273 for all applicants liable to pay. An increase of 76% on the fee payable by probate professionals. The increase raises money to cover the shortfalls in the old system.

The government announced equalising fees for all applicants. Based on the principle of everyone paying the same fee for the same service. It’s intention is to cover the costs of the service without generating a profit.

Estates valued at £5,000 or less still remain exempt from paying a probate fee.

Justifying the increase in probate fees

The recent increase in probate fees coincided with a period of significant delays in processing applications. Reported waiting times for applicants skyrocketed from around four weeks to over nine weeks. These delays were attributed to the closure of regional probate registries and the ongoing impact of Covid-19.

In response to criticism about the rising fees and processing delays, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson assured Which? Magazine that every penny collected would be directly reinvested into processing probate applications. They emphasized that “These fees will fully fund our investment in a first-class digital probate service. This will ensure shorter waiting times, fewer user and administrative errors, and ultimately a better experience for families.”

Previous proposals for a sliding fee scale based on estate value were ultimately abandoned. This decision came due to concerns that it would effectively become a “death tax,” with the wealthiest estates potentially facing fees as high as £6,000 for probate. The initial suggestion had even proposed fees reaching up to £20,000, a figure deemed far too excessive by many.

Applying for probate

Often probate applications and estate administration are complex and time-consuming. Tasks such as calculating Inheritance Tax and preparing estate accounts, are particularly difficult. Penalties can be imposed for underpayment of tax. Also beneficiaries can claim against the estate if it is not correctly administered and recorded.

For this reason, it is advisable to speak to a probate professional to ensure that no inadvertent errors are made.

You may also like to read our post ‘Understanding Probate and answering the common questions’.

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