Probate fees set to rise despite continued delays

Published by Simon Levine on 16 July 2021

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The Government has announced a consultation that will see probate fees increase despite continued and often significant delays caused by mistakes made by the Probate Registry.

The Ministry of Justice proposes to increase probate fees from £155 for probate professionals and £215 for individuals to a flat rate of £273 for all applicants.

Simon Levine, solicitor and Director of Legal Services at Kreston Reeves comments.

“The Government has said that it costs HM Courts & Tribunals Service more to process probate applications than it receives in fees, resulting in taxpayers subsidising the processing of probate applications. The increased fee is expected to raise between £23million and £25million each year from 2022. Estates worth less than £5,000 will continue to attract no fee.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service has recently introduced a new online portal for probate applications, with this portal now compulsory for almost all probate applications lodged by probate professionals. However, HM Courts & Tribunals Service still requires the original will and a copy of the signed legal statement to be sent to them by post.

There have been many complaints by probate professionals about the problems with the new portal. It requires a code from HM Courts & Tribunals Service, which can take up to 30 minutes to arrive, and it is increasingly difficult to speak to staff at the Probate Registry.

The Government has closed many of the local Probate Registry offices and their staff are often not as knowledgeable about probate matters as they used to be. There have been many reported instances of probate applications being mislaid or grants of probate containing mistakes in their wording, meaning that they have had to be returned which can result in significant delay.

Simple probate applications are currently taking around eight weeks but if inheritance tax is due or on complex estates, we have waited for up to six months for probate to come through. Before the online portal was introduced, probate was usually granted within two or three weeks of submitting an application.

“The increase in fees is much less than the increase proposed in 2018 and then scrapped before the 2019 General Election. That increase would have resulted in fees of up to £6,000 for a grant of probate which caused significant opposition. It is unlikely that the proposed increase will cause as much opposition given that the maximum proposed increase is £118.”

The consultation closes on 23 September 2021 and it is proposed to introduce the new fee early in 2022. The consultation can be found here.

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