Increase in Probate Court Fees approved by House of Commons committee

A Statutory Instrument which will implement the UK government’s plans to bring in a new banded probate court fee system in England and Wales has been…

A Statutory Instrument which will implement the UK government’s plans to bring in a new banded probate court fee system in England and Wales has been narrowly approved by nine votes to eight following a House of Commons Delegated Legislation Committee vote.  

Despite facing overwhelming opposition since it was first raised, the proposal to introduce probate fees which are linked to the value of the deceased’s estate is now looking more like a reality. The Statutory Instrument will now be put before the House of Commons, where it is likely to be approved.

The date for the House of Commons final vote has not yet been announced but the Minister responsible for the legislation, Lucy Frazer MP, has confirmed that the changes will be introduced in April 2019 and that guidance on how to pay fees will be published before the changes take effect. The actual date of implementation has not yet been confirmed.

This is a disappointing outcome for the numerous professional bodies, including STEP, with whom the majority of our Wills, Trusts and Estates (WTE) team hold membership. Serious concerns have been raised over the legality of the proposed changes given that the fees bear no correlation with the actual cost of providing the court service.

Members of WTE team at Weightmans are taking care to advise our clients about the uncertainty over timing as we are concerned that the new fee structure may be introduced at short notice with immediate ramifications for our clients. It has yet to be seen whether the government will listen to calls from us and the wider professional membership at STEP to reduce the pressure on bereaved families by applying the new fees to the estates of people who die after the changes are introduced.

For professionals acting on behalf of Personal Representatives, the issue is undoubtedly going to be the reliance on third parties to provide the required information in time to submit applications.

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