Probate Fees introduced from May

I’m surprised that there has been nothing in the weekend papers, (3) which I take, about the Government’s response to the consultation in respect of the proposed increase published on 24 Feb. It is interesting to see that out of the 829 responses it received, 63 were in favour, 695 against and 71 neither agreed nor disagreed.

One wonders why the Government bothered wasting its and our time consulting when it had obviously decided to bring in this further taxation measure anyway. Comments please.

Patrick Moroney
BWL solicitors


There can be no doubt that this is in substance a measure of taxation. There seems to me to be something wrong about new a new tax being levied by way of a statutory instrument, which can be expected to be nodded through with little or no consideration by Parliament, under the guise of a change in the fees charged for a public service.

We might struggle to get 100,000 signatures for a petition. Does anyone feel strongly enough to take it to the Supreme Court? They can have my next fiver.

Tim Gibbons

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Surprised here too Patrick, although not surprised that our views were ignored. Currently working out our strategy to deal with the “urgent” applications before the new fees take effect. However, we are going to struggle to get the probate applications in on any new taxable estates, because of how long it takes HMRC to receipt an IHT421! Interesting that there is no reference to that in the consultation.

Sharon Heselton
B P Collins LLP

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The Government’s response sets out a breakdown of the percentages of estates that will fall within each of the new rate bands, with 58% expected to be within the 0% band. On this basis, the remaining 42% would give rise to fees of £63,500 per 100 estates as opposed to £15,500 per 100 estates under the current rate (and that assumes that all of those estates would pay the fee)! That represents a 310% increase in the fee take. Let’s all hope that this increase in the take is invested in more staff in the Probate Registries. However, I fear that it will be used elsewhere in HMCTS.

Graeme Lindop
Coles Miller Solicitors LLP

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With regard to Greame Lindop’s closing comment, within the Consultation Paper it was clear that the current level of probate fees covers the running costs to provide the service, and that the almost eight-fold increase is intended to cover over a third of the shortfall in running the rest of HMCTS – the criminal courts, etc. As I commented in my response to the CP, this is nothing short of usurious, and is likely to fall upon those whom the Government purports to support – widows and charities.

I find the decision on the fees bewildering, mindful of how Government bodies widely criticise service providers who charge value based fees for work which is wholly transaction based (as well as where such fees are used for the cross-subsidisation of services).

Paul Saunders


Why do you assume it will be used anywhere in HMCTS?

Julian Cohen, Solicitor

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There has been some blue sky thinking on the subject of how these will actually be paid (para. 54). I’m sure the banks will update their procedures within 5-10 years making this all fine. I particularly like the suggestion that solicitors will pay the fee up front or that:

“An alternative executor named in the will may have adequate funds available, or a better credit rating and therefore be better placed to act”.

Presumably an executor with a poor credit rating could use one of the many payday loan companies advertised on daytime TV. They’re not just for car and boiler repairs.

Andrew Goodman
Osborne Clarke LLP


Given world wide events, and the supposed role of the judiciary and lawyers, it does sometimes concern me that (UK) lawyers’ only concern is the ‘bottom line’. Of course that is a mass over generalisation, and there are fortunately, many exceptions. This new ‘tax’ is not the worst piece of legislation, but it is introduction as a fee increase with scant regard to the consultation exercise just shows how little regard government has of the profession as a whole. There are many other changes in the legislation that are ill-thought and it seems that we just have to ‘hear and obey’. I’m putting my next fiver in the same manner as Tim Gibbons. Any takers?
Haroon Rashid
I Will Solicitors Ltd


Just a thought, is this possibly ultra vires and could be the subject of a judicial review?

Julie Bullough
Coupe Bradbury

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It may be worth trying to find out why the fees were changed from a proportional system to a flat fee system in 1999. I think this is something my father was involved with, as he was a probate registrar at that time and I do know that in 1997 an MP asked a question in parliament for him about the fees recovered and running costs of the Probate Registries.
Unfortunately he is not around for me to ask what happened, but other (now ex-registrars) will have been involved in the process. I remember him saying the courts couldn’t operate at a profit – but I don’t know if this applies to the individual sectors, and of course the courts as a whole aren’t operating at a profit.

Helen Dawson

Has anyone thought to ask Keith Biggs as I suspect he may well have been around in 1999 at Winchester?
Michael Packham
Standley & Co

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Yes, I’ve asked my mum to see if she can remember who was most involved – Keith may well have been and there are other ex-registrars I could seek to contact too.

The MP who asked the question may also know more too, I will sound out as to who might be best to approach.

Helen Dawson

i am afraid that i remember the 1999 changes. They were on the basis that it was wrong for the probate “consumers” to subsidise other elements of the Courts. once upon a time, probate fees paid for the entire court service, though in 1999 that was no longer quite true.

And Julian Cohen is - as ever - right: the money will not be spent on the court service, it will just for accounting purposes notionally cover the court service, so the difference will actually be spent somewhere else (or possibly saved).

Let’s make sure we are all at the forefront of Probate Bypass Trusts, which should be an excellent growth area for us all, and will ensure that the Government actually lose money as a result of this ridiculous decision.

Tom Dumont
Radcliffe Chambers


I have had a response to say that the understanding at the time was that the move to a flat fee was the result of a ruling that the ad valorem fee was illegal; fees should only cover costs and the Department should not make a profit. This did cause difficulties as it resulted in the Registries not covering their costs.

The reference to a ruling is intriguing.

Helen Dawson

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Can I ask if anyone has any idea yet of how the cut off date will be agreed. Is the deadline going to be based on when a client dies?/when an oath is dated? or perhaps when the form is received by the registry.

not sure if that has been announced yet but would be grateful if anyone has any knowledge or thoughts?

Paul Mounce
Graham & Rosen

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I have been advised it will be date application received.

I understand a date of death cut off was proposed (to avoid a rush for grants), but rejected.

I think I would have liked to have seen a date of death cut off initially, with same fees for all applications introduced at a later date – say 18-24 months after May, so that the registries weren’t having to deal with two sets of fee systems indefinitely.

I don’t know what the fees will be for second grants, hopefully the fixed fee we have at present as the registry will have already taken the ‘main’ fee. Copy grants will still be 50p.

Helen Dawson

My reading of this is that the fee will be based on the value of the estate for IHT as opposed Probate purposes. Therefore Executors of a person with a (relatively modest) free estate of £250,000 and say Life Interest in £251,000 would presently pay £155. Under the new scheme this would be £4,000, not the £300 based on the value of estate for probate purposes.

Does anyone disagree with this?

Increases of these proportions seem completely unreasonable.

Justin Wallace
Brewer Harding & Rowe

I had a quick skip through the consultation paper, responses and impact assessment over lunchtime. Apart from giving me indigestion, it seemed to refer to the ‘estate’ on which the fee is to be based as the ‘net estate before IHT’. There is nothing I could see which indicated that the fee was to be based on the IHT estate as opposed to the ‘net estate’ for probate purposes.

Jill MacMahon
Thackray Williams LLP

As some others have commented, HMRC are very slow at present in issuing certified IHT421s, even in non-taxable estates. In consequence, an application for Probate could be delayed until after the chosen date for the fee increase solely due to delays at HMRC. In my view this is most unfair and if one wants to be cynical one might imagine that HMRC would deliberately delay certifying a form IHT421 in order to increase the Probate fee coffers. It also makes it difficult for practitioners who have already told their clients that the fee will be £155 if it is then significantly higher due to a delay at HMRC.

A date of death cut off would have been far more just.

Cliona O’Tuama

Will the fee be based on the figures disclosed in the Oath and, if so, will the wording of the Oath need to be amended to reflect the value bands?

Graeme Lindop
Coles Miller Solicitors LLP