It’s good news that the government’s original proposal to introduce a “death tax” has been scrapped, as this would have seen grieving families pay up to £6,000 for probate.
However, introducing a flat fee of £273 is still a big rise for consumers – 26% for individuals applying for probate without a solicitor.
Currently, fees are £155 for professional users and £215 for non-professional users. From 26 January 2022, these will change to one single probate fee of £273.
Since the start of the pandemic, bereaved families have had to deal with extensive delays in probate – which has only marginally improved. Bereaved families are now being asked to wait six weeks before applying for probate, leading to increased interest and even longer delays. SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly) members are still reporting an average wait of 6 to 9 weeks to obtain probate.
The probate service still needs serious improvements, especially now people are having to pay considerably more for it. The Ministry of Justice says these fees will fund investment in a first-class digital probate service to ensure shorter waiting times, fewer user and administrative errors and a better experience for families. We’re hopeful that the fee increase will bring positive changes, but if not, both consumers and solicitors will feel frustrated at the system once more.
It’s time to draw a line in the sand and be clear about how and when vital changes will be made so bereaved families aren’t enduring further stress and anxiety at what is already a difficult time for them.
We’re also concerned that the universal fee, applied to professionals and individuals applying alike, could encourage families to reduce costs by applying themselves and avoid speaking with a lawyer. Seeking professional advice when dealing with probate will help resolve any complex arrangements with the estate and helps relieve pressure on grieving loved ones.
Martin Banwell, Solicitor at Hegarty Solicitors, Peterborough and Andrea Beesley-Hewitt, Solicitor at Hegarty Solicitors, Stamford are fully accredited members of SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly), the membership organisation for specialist solicitors who support older and vulnerable people.