Probate fee increases - is it a new stealth tax on estates?

If a person dies with bank accounts, shares, investments or a property in their sole name, it is often the case that a Grant of Representation is needed before their estate can be passed on to the intended beneficiaries.

Earlier this month, the Government revived a plan to increase the fee payable to the Probate Registry when making an application for a Grant of Representation.

The current Probate Registry fee for an application made by a solicitor is £155 and £215 for individuals.

The proposed fees are as follows:

Estate value                                                                Probate Registry fee

  • Up to £50,000 estate value                                          £0
  • £50,000 to £300,000                                                   £250
  • £300,000 to £500,000                                                 £750
  • £500,000 to £1m                                                         £2,500
  • £1m to £1.6m                                                              £4,000
  • £1.6m to £2m                                                              £5,000
  • Above £2m                                                                  £6,000

The Probate Registry procedure in reviewing an application for a Grant of Representation is basically the same, whatever the value of the estate, so why is the fee increase being proposed?

The Justice Minister commented recently:

 “Fees will be set at a level to ensure that they will only be paid by those who can afford them, with all income going directly to our courts and tribunals – ensuring justice is done, and protecting victims and vulnerable people.”

It is estimated that the new scheme will bring in an additional income for the Government of £145m per year from 2019/20 and will rise to £185m in 2022/23 with the intention of ensuring a more efficient and effective service. 

It seems to be a drive to increase revenue therefore. This will come as little comfort to Personal Representatives who may have to raise funds, or pay themselves, to obtain a Grant of Representation to access assets within an estate. More people may simply start to open joint accounts and/or take out policies to make funds accessible in the event of death without potential having to apply for a Grant of Representation.