An expert in wills and probates has said that controversial Government changes to probate fees 'could be seen' as a tax aimed at the wealthy.

The new fees represent a dramatic increase on the current costs to secure the necessary probate documentation after a family member's death, rising from a maximum of £215 to £6,000 for an estate of more than £2 million.

A sliding scale system is applied as estates get smaller but the decision has been met with disapproval across the board, including from leading lawyer Lorna Payne, a private wealth specialist at Leamington Spa firm Wright Hassall.

On introducing the changes, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Justice, Lucy Frazer QC MP, said the extra cash would go towards helping to fund the court system, which is currently the subject of a £1 billion modernisation investment.

Lorna argued to the contrary saying: "The new fees aren't supposed to be a tax but could be seen as one."

"The work involved in dealing with the application for a grant doesn't appear to e influenced by the value of the estate and so it seems unfair to charge a higher value estate a greater fee."

"My understanding is that the justification for the increase in the cost is that the courts system is lacking funds.

However, I have also heard that the probate registry actually covers its cost and so they are subsidising the cost of one court system from another. "

"The decision seems to have been met with disapproval and could cause problems for people trying to access an estate without the funds to pay the probate fee initially."

The changes are expected to be introduced in April 2019.

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