Thank you to those who have contacted me about probate fees.
I understand your concerns over the change to fees for a grant of probate. Dealing with the aftermath of the death of a loved one is a difficult process and it is only right that the service should be as easy to use as possible.
To that end, you may be pleased to know that the Government is modernising the service to ensure the user experience is as easy as possible, by making changes to the Probate Service to improve the service and experience of the user, thereby reducing the burden on those who are grieving.
As you have mentioned, the Government is also looking at the fee charge for grant of probate. It has long been a principle of the justice system that the users of the court service make a contribution to its upkeep. Funding the court system in this way through fees – including probate – limits the demands on the wider taxpayer. I welcome the fact that all of the income generated will be used to fund an efficient and effective courts and tribunals service, including cross-subsidising areas such as domestic violence proceedings in the family court and access to the mental health tribunal where no fees are charged. I believe this strikes the right balance between those users of the service who are able to pay and the burden on general taxpayers.
I welcome the fact that the Government initially consulted on a new banded structure in 2016. However, given the strong responses to the original proposals, Ministers are now proposing a different structure with a much lower level of fee at every band. Under the new proposals, the top fee has been reduced from £20,000 to £6,000 – and this will only be paid by estates of a value in excess of £2 million.
It is important for the courts to continue to receive the necessary funding, while ensuring that those with the smallest estates are spared the need to pay at all. Under the new proposals, the rise in estate value threshold from £5,000 to £50,000 will lift around an additional 25,000 estates out of fees altogether every year; fifty per cent of people will not pay fees at all. Of those who do pay, around 80 per cent of estates will pay £750 or less and the money raised will be invested into the courts and tribunal service. In all circumstances, no estate will ever pay more than 0.5 per cent of the value of an estate.