I understand concerns over the change to fees for a grant of probate. Dealing with the aftermath of the death of a loved one is a difficult process and I have always believed it should be made as fair as possible. It is also the case that fees are a vital part of protecting access to justice through the funding of modern courts and tribunal service.
With that in mind I should say that while I do share uneasiness about government potentially seeking to raise taxes by calling them fees, it’s clearly not the case that this current move has taken place secretively; the measure has been widely covered in the media. Moreover, it is clear that in this case, the flat £215 fee will be removed for the 25,000 smallest estates, and increases will only apply for those that are far larger.
To ensure the courts continue to receive the necessary funding, a banded fee structure for grants of probate has been announced. I know that Ministers have listened to a variety of concerns raised about these changes and, in fact, the most recent proposals have been revised to ensure fees will not amount to more than 0.5 per cent of the value of an estate. This is a welcome change to keep the system fair and proportionate, and after the Government’s reform, fifty per cent of people will not pay fees at all. I also understand that of those who do pay, around 80 per cent of estates will pay £750 or less and the money raised will be invested into the courts and tribunal service.
In my view the new banded fee system is a fair and progressive replacement to the current flat fee structure and ensures the courts system is properly funded without placing an excessive burden on other taxpayers. I am assured that the Government is set to release guidance to help applicants choose the option to pay which best suits their circumstances.