Probate fees, or another way to fund the Courts?

Power of Attorney Refund

The Times have published an article that says the proposed hike in Probate fees have been ruled unlawful by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (JCSI).

Our last news piece reported the drastic increase in Probate fees dependent on the size of the estate. For large estates, people could be paying up to £20,000.00 to obtain Probate which is simply an administrative task. The same amount of work is involved no matter how large the estate.

It has been said that these fees are to raise £300 million to fund the Courts and Tribunal Service. This simply confirms that this is a back door tax and not a fair way of increasing Probate fees.

David Sinclair, Partner of Acorn Solicitors Taunton and Street and Director of Solicitors of the Elderly (SFE) has said:-

“The proposed hike in probate fees will hit the vast majority of our clients and a lot of people in Somerset will be paying a lot more than they should. A service like probate should just be self-funding and not a mechanism for funding the wider court system in my opinion.”

These fees are now being delayed and possibly even scrapped after it has been confirmed that the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) have acted well beyond their powers.

The report by the JCSI together with campaigners such as SFE and a petition with over 30,000 signatures has put pressure on Lord Chancellor Ms Truss to look again at the proposed charges.

Claire Davies, Director of SFE says:-

“We are delighted to see the JCSI has confirmed what was clear from the offset. The government’s probate fee hikes are nothing more than a backdoor tax, and the Ministry of Justice has acted beyond its powers . . . Our hope now is that the government re-evaluates these fees and, at the very least, finds a fairer way of structuring them.”

The Committee was told that the 2014 act demonstrated “parliament’s clear intention that the Lord Chancellor may set certain fees above cost recovery levels in one part of the court and tribunal system in order to help maintain the efficient and effective operation of the rest of the system”.

The Ministry of Justice commented: “Our plans to introduce new probate fees remain unchanged. We will introduce a fairer system, meaning over half of estates pay nothing and over 90 per cent pay less than £1,000. They will be considered in parliament in May, and come into force as soon as possible.”

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