Proposed probate fees increase finally scrapped

After months of uncertainty, Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, has announced that the government’s proposal to dramatically increase probate fees has finally been scrapped.

The proposal would have seen the current flat fees of £155 (if applying via a solicitor) and £215 (if applying as an individual) replaced by a sliding scale with higher value estates paying as much as £6,000.

The proposed increases were met by widespread criticism in 2017 when they were first announced. Although the initial fee cap of £20,000 was reduced to £6,000 in 2018, public opinion remained firmly against the proposal, dubbed a ‘death tax’ by its critics.

In a statement last week, Mr Buckland said that he had decided that the proposal was not ‘fair and proportionate’ and the law required to implement it would not therefore be enacted.

Rather than the dramatic overhaul previously envisaged, ‘small adjustments’ to the current probate fees to cover costs will be considered as part of the next annual review of court costs which begins in a few weeks.

The response to the announcement has been overwhelmingly positive, with legal professionals, the media and the public alike voicing relief that what many say was a ‘stealth tax’ on grieving families will not become law.

Katie Emerson is a solicitor in the private client department at Barker Gotelee, Ipswich solicitors.

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