Changes to probate fees in England and Wales will see some people pay as much as £6,000 for their probate applications.

The government has announced that from April 2019 the flat fee of £215 for individuals and £155 for those applying through a solicitor will be scrapped to be replaced by a sliding scale.

The new banding structure will benefit those with estates worth less than £50,000 who won’t pay any fee at all, while the fee for estates worth more than this will be determined according to a sliding scale:

  • Estates worth £50,000 to £300,000 will pay £250
  • Estates worth £300,000 to £500,000 will pay £750
  • Estates worth £500,000 to £1 million will pay £2,500
  • Estates worth £1 million to £1.6 million will pay £4,000
  • Estates worth £1.6 million to £2 million will pay £5,000
  • Estates worth more than £2 million will pay £6,000

Justice Minister Lucy Frazer has stated that all money raised through the increased fees will be spent on running the courts and tribunals service, though this is likely to be small comfort to families facing such a steep hike in charges.

Meanwhile, the Law Society has made no secret of the fact that it feels the changes are simply a way of increasing inheritance tax by stealth.

Law Society president Christina Blacklaws commented: “The cost to the courts for providing a grant of probate does not change whether the size of the estate is £10,000 or £1 million. Making those who have larger estates pay more is essentially just increasing the level of inheritance tax by stealth.”

No doubt greater clarity on the new rules will be released over the coming months, but I would not be surprised if, with increased fees on the horizon, people start to look at how they can manage their estates to keep the value below certain thresholds.

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