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Probate Fees May Rise as Delays Continue
Professional bodies, including the Law Society, have criticised the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) plans to raise probate fees at a time when bereaved families are still encountering long delays in processing grant of probate applications.
But the government claims that HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) currently operates at a loss, places an unjustifiable burden on the British taxpayer who picks up the shortfall.
Proposed Probate Fees Increase
The government’s new proposals remove the discrepancy in fees between professional and non-professional applicants. If passed, the grant of probate fees will increase from £155 and £215 (for probate professionals and individuals respectively) to a flat fee of £273 for all applicants, regardless of the size of the estate.
The proposed fee rates are ‘significantly different from those proposed (and scrapped) in 2019. According to the MoJ, this new charging scale will not “generate a profit” for the government. The new structure charges all users the same fee for the same service, aligned with HM Treasury’s policy for ‘Managing Public Money’. If passed, Estates valued at less than £5,000 will not attract a fee, as is currently the case.
A spokesperson for the MoJ said: ‘Every penny from these fees will go towards the cost of processing applications – meaning taxpayers will no longer be forced to subsidise them.’
Probate Application Delays Continue
Statistics published for the first quarter of 2021 show the average time between applying, and the issuing of a grant was eight weeks.
However, the adverse effects of the pandemic last winter meant that application numbers spiked in February, slowing the process down further. At the same time, ongoing technical issues accessing the new online service (mandatory for professionals) meant the application process was far from seamless. However, according to HMCTS, all IT issues are fixed.
Responding to the MoJ’s announced plans, the Law Society President Stephanie Boyce said: “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.”
“Any increase in fees must be reflected in the service provided. 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 consultation opened on 8 July and will close on 23 September.
If you have concerns about an estate that involves you or your family or have any questions about obtaining a Grant of Probate, please contact us. We’re here to help.
Please note that all views, comments or opinions expressed are for information only and do not constitute and should not be interpreted as being comprehensive or as giving legal advice. No one should seek to rely or act upon, or refrain from acting upon, the views, comments or opinions expressed herein without first obtaining specialist, professional or independent advice. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, Curtis Parkinson cannot be held liable for any errors, omissions or inaccuracies.