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Look out for changes to probate fees

Holly Thomas / 27 November 2018

Bereaved families are to be hit with soaring costs to secure probate from April 2019 – find out more

Legal document tied with string and secured with a wax seal
Legislative changes mean that probate fees will be increasing for many

The probate fee structure is changing, and for many it won't be for the better. Fees charged for probate – which allows legal control over a deceased's estate – are currently fixed at £215 – or £155 for families who use a solicitor.

But the Government announced that the charges will be linked to the size of the estate.

Rising probate costs

Under the proposed new system, estates valued at more than £2m will now pay £6,000, while those worth between £1.6m and £2m will pay £5,000 and those between £1m and £1.6m £4,000.

Estates worth between £500,000 and £1m will have to find £2,500, while those in the £50,000 to £300,000 price bracket will pay a more affordable £250. Those valued at less than £50,000 will be exempt compared with the current and lower threshold of £5,000.

According to estimates, one in five families who pay fees will need to find at least £2,500.

Deed of variation – how to change a will after death

Andrew Wilkinson, will dispute specialist at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, said:The idea of calculating fees on a banded system makes little sense – the probate office has to do the same work, regardless of whether the estate is worth £10,000 or £10 million. On a practical note, funding these higher costs could also prove a challenge for executors.

“The hike in costs will come as a shock to those individuals who are trying to establish what will happen to their estate upon death. The changes could lead them to take risky measures when arranging their affairs in order to try and avoid or reduce these substantial fees after their death.” 

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Probate fees paid upfront

Aside from the soaring costs, executors will also have to pay the fee up front before reclaiming it from the estate once probate has been granted.

Some families will be left no choice but to borrow to be able to foot the bills.

Paul Lewis on the probate fee increase

Barbara Stephens, head of private clients at Hethertons Solicitors in York, said: “It will cause a lot of hardship.”

The fees are lower than those proposed by the Government in 2017, when bills were projected to rise as high as £20,000. 

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25,000 estates will be exempt

Justice minister Lucy Frazer said: “We have listened to these very carefully, and under today’s proposal we have revised fees so they will never be more than 0.5% of the value of the estate.

“Moreover, by raising the estate value threshold from £5,000 to £50,000, we will be lifting around 25,000 estates annually out of fees altogether.”

What to do when someone dies

The Ministry of Justice insisted the fee was not a tax and would help plug a shortfall in the cost of the courts service.The courts in England and Wales currently raise about £740million in fees, and cost £1.6 billion to administer.The Ministry of Justice said it plans to publish guidance on ways to pay.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.