For many years the Court Service have been considering an increase to the probate court fee (the fee paid by an applicant to the Probate Registry to issue a Grant of Representation). In early 2016 a sliding scale for probate court fees was proposed, under which many more estates than before would pay no fee at all, but with estates worth £2 million or more paying a vastly increased fee of £20,000. This proposal faced ferocious backlash accusing the Court Service of attempting to levy a second inheritance tax, and was swiftly abandoned following consultation. A revised version of this plan was proposed in 2019 with the maximum fee reduced to £6,000, but this again was scrapped after similar backlash.
In July 2021 a new proposal was made to simply increase the probate court fee to a flat fee of £273 to be paid by both personal applicants and those applying through a legal professional (scrapping the previously discounted fee for the latter). Following consultation towards the end of 2021 the Court Service confirmed that it was likely that they would adopt this new fee but made no mention of when the increase might take place.
On the 7th January 2022 it emerged in online legal forums and journals that the new fee would apply to applications made on and after the 26th January 2022, with official notification of this date being issued by the Probate Registry to users on the 17th January 2022. The important points to note about the revised fee are as follows:
- The £273.00 fee will apply to applications made both personally and those made through legal professionals
- The fee for an additional official copy of a grant will remain at £1.50
- The fee for a second and subsequent grant in an estate will remain at £20.00
- An estate with a net value of £5,000 or less will continue to pay no fee
- Postal applications received by the 26th January 2022 will be charged the current fee
- The Probate Registry will have discretion to apply the current fee to postal applications submitted before the 26th January 2022 but the delivery of the application was delayed and if this can be evidenced.
The rise in probate fees follows swiftly on the heels of the introduction of new excepted estates rules applied to deaths on or after 1st January 2022, and which it’s hoped will help to simplify and streamline the probate application process and reduce paperwork. Major changes include doing away with the need for a grant application for an excepted estate to include an IHT205 form and widening the definition of what constitutes an excepted estate so that more estates will count as excepted going forward. A note of caution, however; care must still be taken to properly establish whether an estate is excepted or not prior to an application being made.