Plans to increase probate fees put on hold

21 Apr 17

Government plans to raise £300m a year by increasing probate fees have been shelved because of Theresa May’s snap general election, the Ministry of Justice has said.

There would not be enough time to push through the necessary statutory instrument this needed before the election, the MoJ said.

A grant of probate gives someone the authority to deal with property, money and possessions of someone who has died.

The government proposed replacing the probate flat-rate fee of £215 with a scale of fees from nothing for estates worth less than £50,000 to fees of up to £20,000 for those worth more than £2m.

The ministry said the charges were “fair and proportionate”, and that those who could afford to use the courts should make a greater contribution to their overall funding.

However, the controversial plans – dubbed a “stealth death tax” by critics – were criticised this month by the joint committee on statutory instruments, which questioned whether the department had the authority to use statutory instruments in this way.

Its report said the plan would “make an unexpected use of the power” to use statuory instruments.

The MoJ had argued that higher probate fees were needed to fund the courts and tribunals service.

Liberal Democrat shadow justice secretary, Jonathan Marks, said the decision was a U-turn by the government.
He said “This policy was rank dishonesty by the Tories. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the charge, it is clearly a tax and not an administration fee, and this dishonesty about language only breeds cynicism in politics.

“If the government wants to raise more money from estates of the deceased it should be honest and say they are raising inheritance tax, not looking to raise tax through the back door.
"The Conservative party must clarify whether they intend to pursue this if they are re-elected or if this really is the end of the line.
"Is this political calculation or a real change of heart?”

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