Government drops plans to hike probate fees paid by bereaved families ahead of general election

May Bulman
Probate fees had been due to rise to up to £20,000 for some estates in England and Wales from May: Getty

Controversial plans to raise fees paid by bereaved families are to be scrapped ahead of the general election.

Probate fees, which are the charges paid to the government when someone dies and the executor of their estate gathers their assets to distribute to beneficiaries of a will, had been due to rise to up to £20,000 for some estates in England and Wales from May.

The Ministry of Justice previously said the plans were due to be considered in parliament after Easter and implemented shortly afterwards, but has now said there is not enough time for the legislation to go through Parliament.

A spokesperson told The Independent: “The relevant statutory instrument will now not have time to go through the parliamentary process before the election. It will now be a matter for the new government.”

It had been hoped the reforms, announced earlier this year and branded a “stealth death tax” by critics, would raise £300 million a year for running the courts and tribunal service.

Currently, there is a flat charge for applications for a grant of probate of £215 or £155 in relation to all estates with a value of at least £5,000.

The overhaul would have set fees in line with the value of the estate in question rather than the current flat fee, in some instances resulting in charges of up to £20,000 — up to 129 times higher than the current flat level.

At the lower end, estates worth more than £50,000 and up to £300,000 would have attracted fees of £300 – rising to £20,000 for those valued at more than £2 million.

The new system would also have seen the threshold below which no fee is payable increase from £5,000 to £50,000, lifting an estimated additional 25,000 estates out of the requirement to pay a probate fee per year.

Earlier this month, a committee of MPs and peers questioned whether the changes were legal, claiming the new charges “appear... to have the hallmarks of taxes rather than fees”.

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