Probate fee increase replaces old scheme
A Probate fee increase in January 2022 to a single flat rate of £273 for all applicants. We look at what the probate fee increase means for a lay executor.
The probate fee increase replaces a previous system with two different fees. Individuals applying for probate themselves £215 opposed to a reduced fee of £155 paid by probate professionals. The scheme was designed to encourage the use of professionals to carry out the often complex process of obtaining a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration and winding up a deceased’s estate.
The higher individual charge was to reflect the larger amount of work sometimes required by the Probate Registry in dealing with mistakes or incorrect applications.
Current probate fees
From 26 January 2022, an application for a Grant of Probate will cost £273 for all applicants liable to pay. An increase of 76% on the fee payable by probate professionals. The increase is to raise money to cover the shortfall in the current system because it currently operates at a loss.
The government announced that fees should be equalised for all applicants. Based on the principle of everyone paying the same fee for the same service. It’s intention is to cover the costs of the service without generating a profit.
Estates valued at £5,000 or less still remain exempt from paying a probate fee.
Justifying the increase in probate fees
Criticism of the increase, comes at a time when the system is experiencing delays in the processing of probate applications. An applicants wait has reportedly increased from around four weeks to over nine weeks. This is partly due to the closure of regional probate registries and a result of the ongoing effects of the pandemic.
There have also been reported administrative errors as the new online centralised system replaces paper applications.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice told Which? Magazine that every penny charged would go towards the costs of processing probate applications. They stated ‘These fees will fully fund our investment in a first-class digital probate service. Ensuring shorter waiting times, fewer user and administrative errors and a better experience for families.’
Previous proposals of charging fees on a sliding scale dependant on the estate value have been abandoned. This was as a result of it being labelled a death tax and the wealthiest estates looking to pay up to £6,000 for probate. The original suggestion was for fees of up to £20,000.
Applying for probate
Often probate applications and estate administration are complex and time-consuming. Tasks such as calculating Inheritance Tax and preparing estate accounts, are particularly difficult. Penalties can be imposed for underpayment of tax. Also beneficiaries can claim against the estate if it is not correctly administered and recorded.
For this reason, it is advisable to speak to a probate professional to ensure that no inadvertent errors are made.
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