Plans to increase probate fees in May 2017 are now uncertain after a panel of experts deemed them unlawful.
Plans to increase the fee structure for probate fees were announced in March. The revised fees would see the flat probate fee capped at £215 changed to a sliding scale of fees based on the value of the deceased person’s estate. Fees will be applicable to estates over £50,000 and will range from £300 to £20,000. The fees received overwhelming objections during the government’s consultation process, with some critics referring to the increases as a ‘death tax’. An online petition against the fees has gained more than 30,000 signatures.
The parliamentary joint committee on statutory instruments said the rises have “hallmarks of taxes rather than fees” and as such could breach the constitutional principle that there should be no taxation without the consent of parliament.
These findings could now mean that the planned introduction of the new fees is uncertain and may be delayed or scrapped.
Jo Wild, Associate Solicitor at Hegarty Solicitors and member of Solicitors for the Elderly commented: ”By proceeding with these fees, ministers have ignored the views of respondents involved in the consultation process. Since then, Solicitors for the Elderly has campaigned hard, alongside other organisations, to have these changes reviewed. Although it is unclear what this means for those currently applying for probate ahead of the deadline of 1st May, it seems likely there will be some sort of delay.
“Our hope now is that the Government re-evaluates these fees, and at the very least, finds a fairer way of structuring them”.