The letter was prompted by rumours that the Ministry of Justice is set to return to the plans in which probate fees will be graded according to estate value. Currently, there is a flat fee of either £155 or £215 per application for probate and no fee paid for estates under £5,000.
The proposed probate fee rise would effectively impose a new ‘estate duty’ of up to 1% on estates above £50,000, regardless of whether it is otherwise exempt from inheritance tax. The fee may also entirely ignore many assets which would be subject to inheritance tax, for example jointly-held assets, trusts and gifts made while the individual was alive. The result could be a new industry of rearranging people’s finances to reduce exposure to this new tax.
It has been suggested these fees will raise around £300m a year towards running the courts and tribunal service. Probate fees should not subsidise other areas of Court, for example litigation fees where successful claimants can be reimbursed by the other party.
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