Plans to bring in a new banded probate fee system are continuing to progress after a tight vote in favour of the controversial proposals.
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 the current maximum of £215 to £6,000 for an estate of more than £2 million.
The changes are now substantially closer to becoming a reality, following a House of Commons Delegated Legislation Committee vote in favour of progressing to the Commons for approval by nine votes to eight.
The proposal, called the Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order 2018, will now go before the House of Commons, where it is likely to be approved.
The general feeling is that this is simply a 'stealth tax' – the work involved in dealing with the application for a grant does not necessarily increase in proportion to the value of the estate and so it seems unfair to charge a higher value estate a greater fee.
In the near future, these changes could cause problems for people trying to access an estate without the funds to pay the probate fee (which has to be settled before probate is granted) and this is something that will need to be addressed.
The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners has called for the Government to alleviate pressure on bereaved families by applying the new fees to the estates of people who die after they are introduced, which would help in the short term but still suggests that there is something fundamentally wrong about the proposals.
At present, the fees could apply to the estates of people who die before April 1st but whose family don't apply for a probate until after that date.
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.
Current estimates suggest that the Ministry of Justice is expected to raise an extra £185 million a year by 2022/23.
There is no exact date as to when these changes are expected to come into play but we are expecting around April time.
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