The Government has resurrected plans for a hike in probate fees on bigger estates. A sliding scale will replace the current flat rates. The current fee for probate is a flat £215 for individuals and £155 for those applying through solicitors. Estates under £5,000 are exempt.
The new maximum fee will be £6,000, for estates worth more than £2m.
The lower threshold will increase from £5,000 to £50,000, lifting an estimated 25,000 estates annually out of fees altogether. About 80% of applicants are expected to pay £750 or less.
The Law Society has accused the Government of ‘increasing inheritance tax by stealth’, protesting that the changes will avoid parliamentary scrutiny as they will be introduced through statutory instrument.
Lakshmi Turner, chief executive at Solicitors for the Elderly, said ‘the ‘stealth tax’ is unjustifiable as the probate process will not require additional work or resources no matter the size of the estate’.
The Ministry of Justice said it will publish a guidance document before the Statutory Instrument comes into force, so I will let you know when we know more.
When we know what the fees are likely to be, we can look at what you might do to avoid them, but keeping in proportion the effects on you and your planning to save what might not be too high a figure, however annoying it is. The fee does not apply to joint assets or trust assets and so some planning that is already worth considering may now have wider advantages.