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Amid accusations of stealth taxation government u-turns on probate fees

Royal Courts of Justice, England

Lack of parliamentary time and mounting pressure from probate professionals prevented the introduction of new tiered probate fees in April this year. Then in October the government announced that staggered fees would not be introduced at all until there had been a more detailed review.

There has been considerable pressure to abandon the complex tiered system proposed by Theresa May’s government. It had been criticised by a number of groups including the Society of Estate and Trust Practitioners (STEP) as a stealth tax, although it was set to raise in excess of £150 million per annum for the courts.

On the one hand the new system would have benefited 25,000 estates valued at less than £50,000. In these cases no probate fee would have been applied but at the same time it was estimated that more than 280,000 families a year would have faced higher charges. Estates valued at over
£2million would have seen a new probate fee of £6000 applied – representing an increase of 2690% above the current £215.

The tiered fee proposal faced widespread criticism with persuasive arguments that it would operate like a tax rather than a fee. Families have no choice about using the service (it is a necessity to deal with a deceased estate) and the probate office provides exactly the same service regardless of the value of the estate

For the time being the government have shelved plans for change and the flat probate fee of £215 stands.