Else Solicitors’ expert Wills and Probate solicitor Kathryn Caple discusses a recent piece from Today’s Wills and Probate and asks; could probate fees be going up?
Proposals from the Ministry of Justice would see the introduction of a flat rate fee of £273 for applying for a grant of probate. Although this would be applied to practitioners and members of the public regardless of the size of estate, allowances are made of estates of less than £5000, which would not be charged.
The article goes on to say: The increase would “align the fee payable for probate applications with the cost of providing that service for all users” according to the proposal document. The proposals would aim to fulfil 3 criteria;
- Remove a “now unjustified discrepancy” in the fee structure in charging different entities different prices.
- Recover the costs of processing applications which currently cost HMCTS more than it receives in income.
- Raises an additional £23-25m for HMCTS, in support of the Lord Chancellor’s statutory and constitutional duty to ensure access to justice.
A government impact assessment says that the flat rate of £273 would achieve the government policy objective of cost recovery, wherein the primary rationale for intervention is efficiency. Fees charged for a grant of probate currently do not cover the cost of this service.
This means that presently this service needs to be cross-subsidised by other areas of the court and tribunals service or from general taxation, which diverts that funding from other areas where it could be effectively used. Raising the application fee to cost will eliminate this need to cross-subsidise. This is important in the wider HMCTS funding context: in 2019-20, the cost of running the courts and tribunals service was £2bn, while fee income amounted to £724m.
Although at the consultancy stage, the proposal goes to show just how deeply the government is looking into the structure of the legal system in an effort to increase efficiency. There have been previous proposals to raise fees – this proposal is on a more modest scale and looks to create consistency across applications. With other changes planned to take place to improve the online application process from August, the Else Solicitors team will be watching developments closely to find out if these new systems can promote a more streamlined, efficient procedure for clients.