Probate fee increases to take effect in three weeks

Probate application fees in England and Wales will increase to £273 for both professional and personal applications, under an amendment to the Non-Contentious Probate Fees Order 2004

From 26 January 2022, the dual fee system will be abolished, creating a single fee of £273 for both professional users, previously £155, and non-professional users, previously £215.

In its consultation response, the government said that the objective was ‘to set the fee at a level that recovers the cost of providing the service, which would better align with the standard approach to charging fees under Managing Public Money principles’. No fee will be payable for estates valued below £5,000.

It estimated that in a typical year, the proposal will raise an additional £23-£25m for the courts and tribunals service.

The government added that any ‘familiarisation and awareness costs’ incurred by individuals and legal services providers who use probate services are expected to be minor.

There are some concerns that aligning the fees does not reflect the benefits of using a professional adviser. In its response to the July 2021 consultation, STEP said that removing the cost difference between professional and non-professional applications will lead to an increase in work for the probate service.

In its consultation response, STEP, the professional association for practitioners who specialise in family inheritance and succession planning, said: ‘If the estate is being administered by a professional and the requisite estate searches and checks have been carried out then the application has a far lower risk of containing any mistakes or errors that HMCTS will subsequently need to spend time investigating.

‘This is a particular issue at present when we are seeing constant changes to administration and reporting procedures in response to the Covid pandemic which could lead to unavoidable errors by the lay client’.

In addition, mistakes made by lay clients could also result in contentious probate claims being made later on, which would also lead to an increased workload for the courts and tribunal service, said STEP.

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