Since the government decided to increase probate fees as set out in the Draft Non Contentious Probate (Fees) Order 2018 there has been much discussion in the media.
The government proposals seek to increase the existing fixed probate fee of £215 on estates on a sliding scale based on the value of the estate. For larger estates this constitutes an effective increase in probate fees of almost 3,000 per cent.
The only estates to benefit under the new rules are smaller estates valued under £50,000 which will pay nothing. The government estimates 25,000 estates will fall into this category. All other estates valued over £50,000 will pay significantly more.
The motion to approve the probate fees order has been scheduled for a vote in the House of Commons since February 2019 but due to the recent prorogation of parliament in the current parliamentary session this will no longer be possible. This does not mean that the motion to approve the increase in probate fees has been rescinded. It now will be necessary for the government to re-table the motion for a vote in the next parliamentary session.
On the face of it this is good news for personal representatives dealing with the administration of estates now or in the near future as any increase in probate fees is unlikely to happen soon. However if the government finds time in the next parliamentary session the motion to increase the fees could be approved. This is by no means certain as due to the backlog of other legislation delayed by Brexit there may not be time to schedule a vote. In addition, given the governments majority in the House of Commons the motion may even be voted down.
For the time being there is therefore no immediate prospect of the government increasing probate fees. At this stage whether this legislation will ever be enacted is uncertain.
Notwithstanding the current impasse, the advice for personal representatives dealing with an estate (but have yet to apply for the grant of probate) is to do so as soon as possible to take advantage of the existing probate fee which in most cases will be a lot lower than the fee under the proposed new charging structure.
For more information on how we can assist with the probate process please contact our Wills and probate team on 0175 321 6399.