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Government confirms probate fee rise

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has announced that all users of the probate service will pay a single, flat rate fee of £273.

This is an increase from the current fees of £155 for professional users and £215 for non-professional users. From 26 January, these will both change to one single probate fee of £273. 

The MoJ announced the new fee in its consultation response on fee hikes to probate applications. 

It said it was making the changes to probate fees for three reasons. Firstly, it wanted to bring the fee structure into alignment with HM Treasury’s Managing Public Money principles, where the same fee should be charged for all users of the same service.

Secondly, it wanted to set the fee at a level that recovers the cost of providing the service. Thirdly, it wanted to protect access to justice by ensuring that courts and tribunals are adequately resourced, while also reducing the overall taxpayer subsidy to the courts service.

Probate is the legal process usually required for estates worth more than £10,000, and allows executors to take charge of a deceased’s estate. 

Before the pandemic, obtaining a grant of probate typically took two weeks. But in 2020, people had to wait an average of 12 to 14 weeks to receive probate.

The delays left bereaved relatives unable to settle bills, disburse bequests and sell homes.

Stephanie Boyce, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: “We support the MoJ’s aim to make a simpler, more streamlined process for users of the probate service, and we understand funds are needed to help this change and development.

“However, we query why the UK government has decided to increase fees at this time, particularly as the probate service is still facing delays. In 2020, people had to wait 12 to 14 weeks on average to receive their grant. This is unacceptable, the service must be timely and allow executors to settle a loved one’s estate.” 

In October 2021, HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) reported it had received 14,834 digital probate applications and 5,502 paper applications. That same month, 20,128 grants of probate were issued, and the timeliness for all applications was 9.3 weeks.

Boyce added: “The government believes there’s no longer a justification for maintaining a lower fee for professional applicants, while a single probate fee will align with its managing public money principles – where the same fee should be charged for all users of the same service.

“The MoJ acknowledges our key concerns that any increase should be reflected in new and tangible improvements to the service. It’s reassuring to see they’ve been making further advances to address these.

“They expect improvements to the service will remain consistent and will continue to progress in the future. We will be monitoring the situation closely for our members and their clients.

“We suggested users should be offered reimbursement for delays. The MoJ acknowledged this but did not confirm if it’s something they’ll incorporate.”

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