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Increased probate fees: a stealth tax on death?

The MoJ is proposing changes to the fees for Grants of Probate – the court orders often needed to deal with the property of someone who has died.

The Ministry of Justice is proposing changes to the fees for Grants of Probate – the court orders often needed to deal with the property of someone who has died.

According to the Ministry, the changes will raise an additional £250m for the whole court service. However, the Ministry acknowledges the probate service is already fully funded by the existing fees it charges and so to the extent the new fees are raising revenue they will amount to a tax upon death.

Currently, the fee for all estates in excess of £5,000 is £155 if the application for the Grant is made by a solicitor and £215 if the application is made personally. If the changes are made the new fees will be as follows:

Value of Estate Fee
Up to £50,000 Nil
£50,000 to £300,000 £300
£300,000 to £500,000 £1,000
£500,000 to £1m £4,000
£1m to £1.6m £8,000
£1.6m to £2m £12,000
Over £2m £20,000

Views upon whether it is fair to link the fee to the value of an estate at all and if so how that should be done may differ widely but there is much scope to reduce the fees irrespective of such matters. The Ministry says the Probate Service currently costs £45m a year and that it is seeking to raise an additional £250m from the new fees. If so, only £1 in every £6 charged will actually be needed for the Probate Service.

The Ministry's consultation upon the new fees closed in early April so it could be some time before we know whether they are going to press ahead with the new tax hidden within their proposals.