June 16, 2016

MoJ considers responses to probate fees increase

The Government, which outlined the fee hikes earlier this year, has been accused of imposing a “stealth tax” on bereaved families.

Justice Minister Shailesh Vara has conceded that the new fee bands were always going to prove unpopular but has said that overhauling the rules will make a “critical contribution” to meeting the costs of running courts and tribunals.

Despite this, a growing number of legal professionals have spoken out against the proposed shake-up, arguing that increasing fees by as much as 9,202 per cent is grossly unfair.

Questions have also been raised about the rationale for such excessive rises, which solicitors maintain bear absolutely no relation to the amount of work required to process a case.

The Law Society warned ministers against using the probate service as “a profit centre.”

“The probate process is not necessarily more complicated and time consuming for higher value estates, but we appreciate that calculating a fee based on the time and complexity of completing probate on a particular estate may not be practical,” said the society’s official response.

“We therefore have no objection to charging a reasonable and realistic probate fee based on the value of an estate. That said, the proposed rates mean a dramatic increase from the current fees, particularly for higher value estates. The fees charged should be much lower and, if they are to be based on the value of the estate, they should increase in gradual increments.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman has said that the consultation exercise, which invited views on the changes, had now been closed and the department was considering the responses it had received.

For legal advice on probate matters please contact Tony Millson and Deanna Hurst in Royds’ Private Client team.

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