Changes to probate fees have been scrapped. The Government confirmed today that the controversial charges have been dropped, at least until after the general election and the next Government.
The Ministry of Justice, the department responsible, said the scrapping is due a timing issue – it can’t get the legislation through in time before parliament closes ahead of the election.
But this widely-opposed rule change should be called what it is – a tax and not a fee.
A controversial hike in probate fees has been scrapped today as the government claims there is not enough time to deal with it this parliament.This is despite an order to approve the fee increase being rushed through the House of Commons yesterday as part of the legislative scramble before the general election.The proposal to scrap the current flat fee of £155 and replace it with fees calculated against the value of the estate starting from £300 and rising to £20,000 for estates worth over £2 million was being pushed through despite an overwhelming number of objections during public consultation and against the recommendations of the Commons Statutory Instruments Committee which said the Justice secretary did not have the power to implement fees which were really a tax by another name. Professional bodies STEP and the Law Society yesterday issued warnings that the increase could be subject to legal challenge if implemented.In the face of all this, it does not seem surprising that the issue has been dropped.The fee increase would create additional difficulties for bereaved families as they will have to find money to pay it before they can access the deceased’s assets.It will now be a matter for the new government to decide whether to pursue changes to the probate fees. It is unlikely to be high on the manifesto agenda, but as this is an area that will affect thousands of families it is an issue to watch in the future.