What you need to know about the Government's proposed changes to probate fees

The Government recently made a U-turn in its previously revealed plan to significantly increase probate fees. Under the controversial scheme, as much as £20,000 would have been charged for each estate worth over £2m for which a grant of probate is obtained. The plan has now been dropped due to insufficient time for implementing it before the general election on June 8. However, it could plausibly still be revived, which emphasises the need to apply for probate quickly.

What the changes would have entailed

Someone handed a grant of probate - the authority to handle a deceased person's property, money, and other possessions - could have, had the plan gone ahead, needed to pay a much higher fee. Currently, a flat rate of £215 is payable for any probate application. However, with the proposed new fees, there would be no charge for estates valued at a maximum of £50,000. Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the scale, estates valued at over £2m would have triggered a £20,000 charge.

The Ministry of Justice had called these charges "fair and proportionate", arguing that applicants capable of affording court usage should pay more towards overall court funding. However, the ministry has since conceded that the appropriate statutory instrument, which would have allowed the changes to be made without a parliamentary vote, would fall short of pre-election completion.

Be on the watch for yet another U-turn

While the changes could theoretically be back on the table after a Conservative victory in the election, political sources cited by The Guardian have poured scorn on the idea. They have reportedly said that opposition to the fee rises remains too significant for such reintroduction.

Nonetheless, if you have been named the executor of the will of someone who has recently passed away, you should not entirely rule out the possibility. Recent YouGov polling revealed that, in public voting intentions, the Tories had a 7-point lead over Labour. Furthermore, International Advisor has warned that, if the Conservatives win with a large majority, the issue could re-emerge.

International Advisor has said that legal advisors should "emphasise to clients that probate applications should still be made as soon as possible to avoid a nasty surprise later down the line." They might also need to think about obtaining a property valuation for probate.

A need for speed

The potentially huge inconvenience of the fees, should they actually be increased as originally proposed, should not be underestimated. A bill of £20,000 could, for many people, necessitate the seeking of alternative funding methods, like bank loans. This could add to the stress already hitting families in the aftermath of a loved one's death. Meanwhile, after the granting of probate, a loan would have to be paid back with interest.

The quicker that you make your own application, the quicker you can also move towards selling the deceased person's property. We can make a probate valuation of property and, on the basis of this, a guaranteed offer. This makes us a great choice of probate property valuation company.

Tim Jackson