Urge the government to block the increase in probate fees from April 2019

Urge the government to block the increase in probate fees from April 2019

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JULIE MATHER-JOHNS started this petition to The Rt. Hon. David Gauke MP and

Stop the introduction of proposed increases in probate fees from April 2019.

Currently the probate fee in England and Wales is a flat-fee of  £215 for estates over £5,000. 

From April 2019 the Ministry of Justice intends to increase them as follows: 

Estate Value /Proposed fee from April 2019

Up to £50,000 : £0

£50, 0001 - £300,000 : £250

£300,001 - £500,000: £750

£500,000 - £1m: £2,500

£1m - £1.6m: £4,000

£1.6m - £2m: £5,000

£2m plus: £6,000

When a person dies, unless their estate can pass directly to the joint owner of any assets or they only had savings/premium bonds, the executor has to apply for grant of probate or letters of administration. While under the new proposals around 25,000 estates will not incur probate costs, the vast majority will incur significantly higher fees than they would now. Executors will have to pay these fees before they can discharge their responsibilities and beneficiaries will receive a smaller inheritance after these charges are deducted. Estates are already subject to inheritance tax, so this is another 'stealth tax' being imposed on death. 

The prices rises proposed above are unjustified and excessive and the difference between bands disproportionate because the same amount of work is required regardless of the value of the estate. They will have a particularly unfair impact on beneficiaries who inherit from someone who has been financially prudent or lived in an area where even modest homes are expensive. The additional charges may also cause hardship to partners and dependents e.g. where the assets is a shared but not jointly owned family home and there is insufficient cash to meet probate /IHT costs.

 The Ministry of Justice is increasing these costs to subsidise other services. The fees do not represent the cost of undertaking probate and the tiered structure is contrary to the principle that different groups of customers should not be charged different amounts for the same service. While the Ministry of Justice is allowed to charge 'enhanced fees' that exceed the cost of performing a task, in this instance it would appear that they may possibly be misusing their authority under section 180 of the Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014.

When increases in probate fees were first proposed, 97% of respondents to the consultation opposed them. While the new fees are slightly lower, many of the original objections from legal and financial experts remain valid.

The new charges have not been well publicised and it seems unlikely the majority of the public would support this tiered restructuring or the exorbitant charges proposed. The Ministry of Justice should set probate fees which are fair and reasonable. 

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