House of Lords approve proposed increase in probate court fees ‘with regret’

Peers in the House of Lords have voted this week in favour of a motion which approves the Government’s plans to introduce a sliding scale of probate…

Peers in the House of Lords have voted this week in favour of a motion which approves the Government’s plans to introduce a sliding scale of probate fees, based on the value of a deceased’s assets, but added an amendment to express ‘regret’ at the proposed changes, which they said amounted to a misuse of fee levying power.

The recently proposed changes to probate court fees represent a watered down version of a previous plan. The proposal, if approved by the House of Commons, would introduce a maximum charge of £6,000 on estates valued at more than £2m. Estates valued at £50,000 or below will not face any charge. Currently fees are set at a flat rate regardless of the size of the estate.

The amendment from the House of Lords was emphatic in its analysis that the proposed fee changes would represent ‘a significant move away from the principle that fees for a public service should recover the cost of providing it and no more’. Notwithstanding this view, the House of Lords nonetheless fell short of dismissing the motion, which will now allow the Statutory Instrument to be put before House of Commons for assessment.

According to Law Society president Christina Blacklaws, the Lords vote ‘showed the strength of opposition’ to the proposed changes even if it was not binding on the government.

‘Two parliamentary committees and now the House of Lords have expressed serious concerns about the proposed ‘stealth tax’ on probate,’ she said. ’We hope the government will reconsider and decide not to ram through these changes despite widespread opposition from parliament and those affected.’

The Wills, Trusts and Estates team at Weightmans LLP would be happy to discuss the impact of this in relation to your own tax planning. Please feel free to contact a member of the team on 0345 073 9900.

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