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Government announces probate fees hike

The Government has announced changes to probate fees which means some will pay almost £6,000 more – but for estates worth less than £50,000, you won't pay anything at all. 

In England and Wales, probate fees – paid when administering someone's estate after they die – will now be paid as a sliding scale depending on how much the estate is worth, rather than as a flat fee. 

At the moment, families pay a flat £215, or £155 if they apply through a solicitor, on estates over £5,000. 

This threshold at which you'll need to pay probate fees is set to be lifted to £50,000 from April 2019 – according to the Ministry of Justice, this means an extra 25,000 estates per year won't pay any fees at all.

But if the estate's value is higher than this, you'll see an increase in probate fees. Estates worth between £50,000 and £300,000 will be charged £250, while the maximum charge is £6,000 for estates worth £2 million or more.

These changes will only apply to estates in England and Wales - Scotland and Northern Ireland have different probate fees.

See our Guide to Probate for more information. 

What is probate? 

When someone dies and leaves property, money and possessions – which is collectively known as their estate – the executor of the will needs to sort out who gets what.

If the deceased left a will and appointed an executor, that person will need to get what is known as a 'grant of probate'. However, if there is no will, the next of kin must apply for what is known as a 'grant of letters of administration'.

The executor or next of kin will then need to get a 'grant of representation', which proves their authority to administer the estate. The process of applying to the court for the grant and the document used to manage the estate is often generically referred to as 'probate' – and incurs probate fees.

Put simply, and in order, the executor's or next of kin's job and the process of dealing with probate involves:

  • Gathering any assets, eg, money left in bank accounts.
  • Paying any bills.
  • Distributing what's left according to the will.

What are the changes?

The fees will depend on the amount the estate is worth: 

  • Estates worth less than £50,000 will pay nothing, meaning estates worth between £5,000 and £50,000 will save £215 compared to the current system. 
  • Estates worth from £50,000 up to £300,000 will pay £250, a rise of £35.
  • Estates worth from £300,000 up to £500,000 will pay £750, a rise of £535.
  • Estates worth from £500,000 up to £1 million will pay £2,500, a rise of £2,285.
  • Estates worth from £1 million up to £1.6 million will pay £4,000, a rise of £3,785.
  • Estates worth from £1.6 million up to £2 million will pay £5,000, a rise of £4,785.
  • Estates worth more than £2 million will pay £6,000, a rise of £5,785. 

What does the Government say?

In a written statement to Parliament, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Justice Lucy Frazer MP said: "This new banded fee model represents a fair and more progressive way to pay for probate services compared to the current flat fee and reflects our commitment to protecting access to justice by ensuring we have a properly funded and resourced courts system.

"We are also confident these fees will never be unaffordable. The cost of the fee is recoverable from the estate and executors have several options to fund it. Moreover, the Lord Chancellor retains a power to remit a fee if he considers there are exceptional circumstances."

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