Not before time, and having caused misery for bereaved families, the Lord Chancellor
has confirmed that the government’s proposals to introduce an eye-watering increase in
Court fees charged for a grant of probate have been officially scrapped.
The fee hike had already been put on hold following the prorogation of parliament, but
the announcement means that the controversial policy will not be revived.
Under the government’s proposals in the Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order,
probate fees would have risen from the current fixed fee of £155 to a sliding scale of fees
of up to a disgraceful £6,000 depending on the size of the estate. The new fees were
intended to be introduced in April 2019.
However, amidst pressure from solicitors through the Law Society, and opposition from
the public, the plans were never brought to a vote in the House of Commons. It was
argued that the huge fee increase was a tax on grief, with the recently bereaved expected
to bear the brunt of funding shortfalls across the courts system.
The plans could have caused significant cashflow problems for many, with people who
are asset rich but cash poor – such as pensioners and farmers – likely to be hit especially
Solicitors also objected to the plans on the grounds that they represented a misuse of the
Lord Chancellor’s power to levy fees. The disproportionate level of the proposed fees
would have effectively amounted to a stealth tax, and the use of a statutory instrument to
implement them – a route that allows less parliamentary scrutiny than formal legislation –
would have set a dangerous precedent for future tax rises.
It has been announced that the Ministry of Justice will conduct a wider review of court
fees, which supposedly will involve only “small adjustments to cover costs”……… we shall