The Ministry of Justice is seeking to increase probate fees, maintaining that the current system places an unfair burden on the taxpayer and operates at a loss.
Proposals published today revealed that fees to apply for a grant of probate will increase from £155 and £215 – for probate professionals and individuals – to a flat fee of £273 for all applicants, irrespective of the size of the estate.
According to the government, it currently costs HM Courts and Tribunals Service more to process probate applications than the fees it receives. This means that the service is operating at a financial loss and thus places a burden on the taxpayer by way of subsidising the processing of probate applications. It announced that a current deficit of £85m exists in family jurisdiction services, and that the proposals are set to rise between £23m and £25m each year from 2022.
The MoJ emphasised that the proposals will not create any profit for the government and are ‘significantly different’ from the fee hike that was discarded in 2019, which would have resulted in bereaved families paying up to £6,000 for grants of probate. As is currently the case, estates worth less than £5,000 will not attract a fee.
An MoJ spokesperson stated: “Every penny from these fees will go towards the cost of processing applications – meaning taxpayers will no longer be forced to subsidise them.”
A consultation regarding the fee increase opened on Thursday and will run through to 23 September.
Statistics for January to March 2021 revealed that 8 weeks was the average time frame between submitting an application to a grant being issued. The probate service’s workload saw a significant increase however during the winter spike of the pandemic, and HMCTS has battled with a sharp rise in applications since the end of February.
Issues have also been encountered with the online service which is essential for professionals applying for grants of probate, whereby applicants have reported repeated failure of access codes, or diversions back to the login page despite entering the necessary details. HMCTS informed the Law Society that these technical issues have now been resolved.
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