The Ministry of Justice has confirmed its intention to proceed with plans to increase probate fees, despite an overwhelming rejection of the proposals from firms such as Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE).

Currently, for all estates worth over £5,000, probate application is set as a flat £155 fee if processed through a solicitor, and £215 if applied for by friends or family.

From May, the Ministry of Justice has stated that the charges will now be relative to the size of an estate, with the rate on a sliding scale from £300 for estates worth £50,000 to £300,000, to £20,000 for estates worth over £2m.

Claire Davis, Director at SFE said:

“For the 62% of estates that use a solicitor, probate registry performs a purely administrative role, and the value of the estate has no bearing on the work undertaken.

“To burden larger estates with a significantly larger fee is an unfair form of taxation. For people in this situation, their property is often their primary asset, and they have little cash to pay for higher probate fees, on top of other necessities such as IHT or the use of a solicitor.

“The increase in probate fees will place a burden on families at a sensitive and distressing time and is likely to put people who are vulnerable and/or elderly at risk. Our fear is that such clients might be persuaded to take steps to avoid probate fees, even if the effect is to leave them with insufficient assets to provide for themselves for the rest of their life.”