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Probate fee increase: The Law Society raises its concerns over new plans

A Grant of Probate is a legal document which gives executors named in a Will authority to collect in the assets, sell or transfer property and deal with all other aspects of estate administration.

A ‘Letters of Administration with Will Annexed’ is applied for if the Will does not name an executor or the named executor is unable to apply. If the person did not leave a Will dying intestate then certain people can apply for a ‘Letters of Administration’.

Proposed plans to increase probate fees

The current fees for a Grant or Letters of Administration are £155 for professional users and £215 for non-professional users. The government proposes to change this to one single probate fee of £273 from early 2022 regardless of the size of the estate.

Proposals to increase to probate fees are nothing new, having previously been put forward in 2016 and again in 2019. These proposals were much more extreme and involved sliding scales of fees of up to £20,000 but were never implemented by the government.

Probate practitioners are being encouraged to complete the Law Society of England and Wales’ survey to give their views on the Ministry of Justice proposals to increase fees for probate applications. The survey also calls on probate solicitors to suggest other improvements they would like to see in the probate service in England, to help inform the response to its consultation.

The Law Society’s survey closes on Friday 27 August 2021 and the government’s consultation closes on Thursday 23 September 2021.

Why The Ministry of Justice wants to increase probate fees

The Ministry of Justice sets out the objectives of its consultation as follows www.gov.uk/government/consultations/aligning-the-fees-for-grants-of-probate-to-cost-recovery:

  • remove the unjustified discrepancy between professional and non-professional applicants for probate – this would bring the fee structure into alignment with HM Treasury’s guidance on managing public money, where all users should pay the same fee for the same service
  • ensure that the fee recovers HM Courts and Tribunals Service’s (HMCTS) costs for delivering the service
  • protect access to justice by ensuring that courts and tribunals are adequately resourced, while reducing the overall taxpayer subsidy for HMCTS

Why The Law Society is sceptical about the proposed plans

Since 2019, the probate service has introduced new application forms and a new online application system, and has been re-structuring, with local probate registries being closed. These factors, along with the previous fee proposals, have contributed to serious backlogs in grants of probate being issued.

Here is the Law Society’s position on the proposed rise in probate fees: www.lawsociety.org.uk/campaigns/court-reform/news/have-your-say-proposed-probate-fee-increases

“At present, we’re unclear as to how such fee increases can be justified; especially when grieving relatives are suffering due to the service being subject to significant delays.”

Law Society President, I. Stephanie Boyce said:

“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.

It is no secret the probate service has faced delays for people applying for probate grants or letters of administration. In 2020, people had to wait 12 to 14 weeks on average to receive their grant. This is unacceptable, the service must be timely and allow executors to settle a loved one’s estate.

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”.

We will be completing the survey and sharing our experiences of the significant delays to obtaining probate which have affected many of our clients and await the outcome of the consultation in September.”

Further information

For more information on this story and our probate services, please talk to your usual Druces representative or contact: