In November 2018 the government resurrected plans to increase probate fees for large estates. It published a revised banded structure of fees for a grant of representation (more commonly referred to as the probate court fee). The plans were initially published in 2017 but were quickly dropped after an outcry and the calling of the general election. The revised fees have been reduced significantly for high value estates but they remain controversial as they are viewed as a new ‘stealth tax’. They are likely to come into force from April 2019 and will apply to applications received after the commencement date.
A grant of representation is required to prove the authority of those entitled to act as personal representatives (executors or administrators) and enable them to administer the estate. The fixed fee is currently either £155, if the application is made by a solicitor, or £215 for a personal application. There is no fee for estates worth £5,000 or less.
The banded fee structure will be linked to the value of the deceased’s estate. Estates below £50,000 will be exempt from the probate application fee, but the relief currently available allowing certain individuals to be exempt from the fee will be removed. The Lord Chancellor may use discretion to grant fee remissions in exceptional circumstances.
The proposed fees are:
Value of estate (before Inheritance Tax)
- Up to £50,000 or exempt from requiring a grant of probate – £0
- Exceeds £50,000 but does not exceed £300,000 – £250
- Exceeds £300,000 but does not exceed £500,000 – £750
- Exceeds £500,000 but does not exceed £1m – £2,500
- Exceeds £1m but does not exceed £1.6m – £4,000
- Exceeds £1.6m but does not exceed £2m – £5,000
- Above £2m – £6,000
The fee must be paid at the time the application for the grant is made. The standard ways that executors pay the fee include using:
- Cash in the deceased’s estate if it will be released by the deceased’s bank or building society.
- Personal assets of the executor.
- Assistance from beneficiaries of the estate.
- A loan (depending on the executor’s credit rating).
- Solicitors appointed to act on the executors’ behalf.
- An alternative executor named in the Will who may have adequate funds available or a better credit rating.
Those using options 2-6 will be reimbursed by the estate once it has received sufficient cash funds to do so. Depending on the assets in the estate this could take several months (e.g. if there won’t be sufficient cash until the sale of a house).
If you need help to administer an estate, please contact a member of the Private Client enquiry team on +44 (0)1733 887675 who will refer you to a legal advisor in a location convenient to you.