28 November 2019

Controversial ‘probate tax’ has been abandoned

The government has confirmed that the so-called ‘probate tax’, which would have seen a 2700% increase in cost for some estates, has been abandoned.

Following a period of consultation, plans to charge higher probate fees were set out in November last year. This proposal abandoned the existing fixed fee in favour of fees based on a sliding scale according to an estate’s value, leaving some 56,000 estates having to pay £2,500 to £6,000. The hike in fees payable for probate would have represented a 2,700% increase in cost for estates valued over £2m.

The government also proposed raising the threshold for probate charges from £5,000 to £50,000, indicating this would take around 25,000 estates a year out of fees altogether. However, an estimated 280,000 families annually would have faced higher charges under the new system. The government claimed that the increases would fund improvements to the courts service, with forecasts estimating increased income of £145m a year from 2019-20, rising to £185m in 2022-23.

Opposition from the public, MPs, the Law Society and other groups meant the plans were not brought to a vote, and subsequently the fees were not introduced as originally scheduled in April 2019. The move was then put on hold following the prorogation of parliament.

Now the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland, has confirmed that the changes have been abandoned altogether. The Ministry of Justice will now review probate charges as part of an annual assessment of fees charged for all proceedings in civil and family courts

Probate fees will remain at a flat rate, currently £155 for grant applications made by solicitors and £215 for those made by individuals for estates valued at over £5,000.

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