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Controversial plans to increase the fees charged for obtaining a Grant of Representation in a deceased’s Estate (“probate fees”) have been put on hold in light of the forthcoming General Election, as there is insufficient time for the rules to be approved by both the House of Commons and the House of Parliament prior to 8th June 2017.
The original proposal, authorised by Justice Secretary Liz Truss, would have seen probate fees rise from a flat fee of £215 for all estates over the value of £5,000 (or £155 with the assistance of a Solicitor) up to a maximum of £20,000 for those estates worth over £2m; more than 129 times the current level.
These increased fees were projected to raise an estimated £250 - £300m per year, to inject revenue into the Courts and Tribunal Service, with the proposed fee increase due to be implemented this month. However, the scheme faced strong opposition from critics who considered that this was a back-door form of taxation, where the cost of obtaining a Grant would be determined on the value of the deceased’s estate and not the amount of work involved in obtaining the Grant itself.
Moreover, there were concerns about how the funds would be raised by grieving families, who may not have access to the monies required to finance an application. While suggestions were put forward by the Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Justice, in the official Government response to the proposals, no firm answers to this question were forthcoming, leading to uncertainty for families and probate practitioners alike.
Whilst many may breathe a sigh of relief at the current news, it remains to be seen whether the new Government will revisit the proposals in the future.
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