The Ministry of Justice is proposing radical changes to the Probate application fee as follows :
- £300 for estates worth more than £50,000 and up to £300,000
- £1,000 for estates worth more than £300,000 and up to £500,000
- £4,000 for estates worth more than £500,000 and up to £1 million
- £8,000 for estates worth more than £1 million and up to £1.6 million
- £12,000 for estates worth more than £1.6 million and up to £2 million
- £20,000 for estates worth more than £2 million
The high value applications do not involve any more work for the Probate Registry staff than the low valuation applications do.
The increases in fees therefore sound very much like yet another stealth tax.
The writer has been swearing Probate applications for over 30 years and cannot remember an increase in the flat rate £5 fee she and other solicitors and commissioners for oaths receive for this service.
The current theoretical starting figure for a Grant of Probate is a net estate over £5,000 (i.e. assets in excess of that figure after all bills have been deducted). It would appear that it will not be necessary to obtain a Grant of Probate now for net estates under £50,000. This is in line with the common practice of many banks and building societies who for some years have had their own less rigorous limits e.g. £25,000 or over.
The writer’s concern is that it will be only too easy to obtain access to a sizeable amount of money by claiming (sometimes in all innocence) to be “the next of kin”, and signing and swearing a Statutory Declaration to that effect. Payment out to that person may ignore the better claims of blood relations under the Rules of Intestacy.