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Government scraps planned probate fees hike

Government scraps planned probate fees hike

The Government has reversed its decision to change probate fees, which would have seen some bereaved families pay almost £6,000 extra. 

Last November, the Government announced plans to alter the charging structure for probate fees – which are paid when administering someone's estate after they die – in England and Wales. It said it would replace the current flat fee, now £215, with a sliding scale, meaning higher value estates would have been charged higher fees. 

This would have abolished fees for estates worth less than £50,000, but represented a hike for any estates worth more than this. Estates worth between £50,000 and £300,000 would have been charged £250, and there would have been a maximum charge of £6,000 for estates worth £2 million or more.

The changes were due to come into force in April, but were delayed indefinitely – and the Government has now reversed its position, saying probate fees will instead be reviewed as part of the annual assessment of charges in family and civil courts. 

For the time being, fees will remain at £215 for estates over £5,000, or £155 if families apply through a solicitor. 

See our Guide to probate for more information. 

What is probate?

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

To do this, you need what is known as a 'grant of representation', a document that proves your authority to administer the estate. What form this takes will depend on whether a will has been left.

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 apply for what is known as a 'grant of letters of administration'.

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 does the Government say? 

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "Fees are necessary to properly fund our world-leading courts system, but we have listened carefully to concerns around changes to those charged for probate and will look at them again as part of a wider review to make sure all fees are fair and proportionate."