UK: Update: Government Announce Drastic Increase In Probate Fees

Last Updated: 7 April 2017
Article by Ian Bradshaw

The personal representatives, who are responsible for administering the estate of someone who has died, generally require a Grant of Representation to allow them to collect in, sell and distribute the deceased's assets, with the exception of jointly held assets which pass automatically on death to the surviving owner. Currently a flat fee of £215 (£155 for a solicitor's application) is charged by the Probate Registry when applying for a Grant.

However, last month the Ministry of Justice confirmed that, subject to parliamentary approval, there will be a dramatic increase in probate fees from May 2017. The charging structure proposed is a sliding scale of fees based on the value of the estate passing under the Grant, as shown in the table below.

Value of estate (before inheritance tax) New fee
Up to £50,000 or exempt from requiring a grant of probate £0
Exceeds £50,000 but does not exceed £300,000 £300
Exceeds £300,000 but does not exceed £500,000 £1,000
Exceeds £500,000 but does not exceed £1,000,000 £4,000
Exceeds £1,000,000 but does not exceed £1,600,000 £8,000
Exceeds £1,600,000 but does not exceed £2,000,000 £12,000
Above £2,000,000 £20,000

Prior to obtaining the Grant, the personal representatives must produce a receipt from HMRC to prove either that they have paid the necessary inheritance tax or that no inheritance tax is payable on the estate. Upon notification of death, most banks and other organisations freeze the deceased's holdings until production of the Grant. However, banks will generally allow a direct payment from the deceased's account to HMRC in order to meet the inheritance tax liability; clearly this is only possible if the deceased's bank account has sufficient funds.

The sharp rises in property values, especially in London and the South East, mean that increasingly more estates are creeping above the inheritance tax threshold. Under the government's proposal, the personal representatives of such estates will not only have to raise funds for inheritance tax but also in some cases a further £20,000 probate fee, all whilst there is only very limited access to the deceased's assets.

The probate charges only increased to their current level in April 2014, however the government published their proposal to increase probate fees again in February 2016. The Ministry of Justice invited responses to the plans in a consultation. The proposals received overwhelming opposition, with only 63 out of 829 respondents to the consultation agreeing that the fees should be linked to the value of the estate and less than 2% of respondents in favour of the level of the proposed fees. The prevailing response was that the proposed fees are too high and the differences between the bands too steep. To illustrate this point it has been calculated that the changes will mean that some estates will end up paying more than 129 times the present fee.

The respondents to the consultation cited various reasons for their opposition; one such reason was that the size of the court fees proposed is wholly disproportionate to the cost of providing the service. Furthermore, respondents argued that the sliding scale was also unjustified as the cost to the Probate Registry of preparing Grants is broadly the same regardless of the value of the estate.

The government has acknowledged that the Probate Registry is already self-funding on the existing fees. The Ministry of Justice has estimated that the new fees will raise an additional £250 million a year which will be put towards the general running of the courts and tribunals.

Since the Ministry of Justice confirmed that, despite the feedback from the consultation, the new fees will be introduced there has been further criticism. Many believe that the new fees constitute an additional form of taxation on the bereaved and that the government are taking advantage of the fact that most people will be completely unaware of this change, leading the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg and others to describe it as a "stealth tax".

A key issue is that people may have real difficulty arranging payment of these fees. The changes will have a significant impact on beneficiaries who are asset-rich but cash-poor. Such beneficiaries may find themselves needing to secure a bank loan in order to pay the fee, which will not only incur interest and therefore increase estate costs, but it may also raise issues if the assets which are inherited are not then being sold. In addition, the availability of a loan will clearly depend on the credit rating of the personal representatives or beneficiaries in question.

Concern has also been raised regarding the methods that might be adopted by people in order to minimise the probate fees, such as transferring assets into children's names or placing them into trusts. There is a worry that older people, especially, may be pressured into giving away assets to avoid the charges, which may in turn leave them vulnerable.

The Ministry of Justice have said that the exemption for estates under £50,000 (previously estates not exceeding £5,000 did not incur a fee) will mean that more than half of estates will pay nothing. However, whilst the increased exemption is significant, the benefit is somewhat illusory; frequently for estates of less that £50,000, personal representatives do not need to apply for probate as the thresholds for requiring a Grant are not met (i.e. banks generally have a maximum amount which they will release without production of a Grant).

The changes are still subject to parliamentary approval, and as such we do not have an exact date for when in May the new fee structure will take effect. However, the fee increase will certainly lead to a surge in applications to the Probate Registry in the coming weeks as people try to obtain Grants of Representation ahead of its introduction.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.