Millions of people in England and Wales face a large rise in fees payable after death, to raise an extra £250m for the courts service.
The Ministry of Justice is proposing a massive increase in probate fees for the highest-value estates in an effort to raise the money.
Under the current system a flat fee of up to £215 must be paid as part of a probate application made by an executor before they are able to divide and carry out administration of an estate after death.
But the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) now wants to introduce a sliding fee scale, which would see some estates being asked to pay an application fee as high as £20,000 – a price increase of almost 100 times.
But the MoJ said the proposals would also lift 30,000 estates out of paying the probate fee altogether, by raising the threshold value of estates exempt from paying any fees to £50,000 up from £5,000.
However, anyone with an estate worth more than £50,000 will pay considerably more.
Those estates worth between £50,000 and £300,000 will pay £300, while estates worth between £300,000 and up to £500,000 will pay £1,000 – £785 more than the current fee.
Fees are then staggered, rising to a maximum of £20,000 for estates worth more than £2m.
Shailesh Vara, justice minister, said that 84 per cent of estates would incur fees of no more than £300, while 94 per cent will pay £1,000 or less.
He added: “[These fee changes] are also necessary, making a significant contribution to reducing the deficit and enabling investment which will transform the courts and tribunals service.”
When someone dies in England and Wales, banks and building societies will typically freeze their accounts until the person in charge of dealing with their will, known as the executor or someone acting on their behalf, applies for an official document known as a grant of probate.
Jonathan Smithers, president of the Law Society, said: “We support the Ministry of Justice’s aim of a simpler, more streamlined process for probate users. Many people would regard a progressive fee structure as a fairer way to charge for the service, but the fees proposed for high value estates do not bear any relation to the work or value involved. We will put forward our arguments in our written response to the consultation.”
The government will consult on the proposals between now and April.
The Private Client team at CLC advises you on your personal legal matters, such as attending to probates, the preparation of wills, and lasting powers of attorney. For more information on our Private Client services please contact Ian West or Katie Ward or call 020 7406 1000.