Having softened us with an even greater potential increase in 2017, which was squashed, the Treasury is now having another go at raising revenue by increasing probate fees, originally from April 2019. But the Brexit drama has meant that there has not been enough Parliamentary time to set it up. Once Parliament has passed the rule, it will come in 21 days later, hence the massive queues for probate at the time of writing (May 2019).
Not everyone will lose – estates under £50,000 could save as much as £215. For the rest, they will pay more, mostly a lot more:
- Estates worth from £50,000 up to £300,000 will pay £250, up £35.
- Estates worth from £300,000 up to £500,000 will pay £750, up £535.
- Estates worth from £500,000 up to £1 million will pay £2,500, up £2,285.
- Estates worth from £1 million up to £1.6 million will pay £4,000, up £3,785.
- Estates worth from £1.6 million up to £2 million will pay £5,000, up £4,785.
- Estates worth more than £2 million will pay £6,000, up a mind-boggling £5,785.
All this at a time when the Probate Registries and so-called Probate Helpline are less and less able even to answer the phone, never mind be helpful. While fees go up, applicants and solicitors are doing more and more of the Courts work for them.
It may be that some of the Registries will now be able to get working phone systems installed, but we rather suspect that the complete failure to finance the service properly will not be improved by this massive increase in Probate Fees. It will just be a hidden tax rise, and the deconstruction of the Probate Service will continue to the point where all decisions will be taken by computer, and if you don’t speak computer – tough.
We have great respect for the staff at Probate Registries and the work they do dealing with people at very difficult times. They deserve support, and the funds will be available from April 2019 (or whenever the new Tax actually comes in). But we bet they won’t see any of it – the Justice PR people can’t even be bothered to deal with the outcry at the sometimes impossibility of actually getting through to a Probate Registry. Clearly, the “computer says NO” is the way forward.
STOP PRESS – it looks as if hard pressed Probate Registry staff will be rewarded with a Redundancy Notice as it seems all but one Registry will close, essentially cutting off all personal contact. The previous sentence seems to have been prophetic!
There are some useful but very minor improvements on the way, but on balance, we believe that the wrecking of the Probate Service is not an accident so any increases will not benefit them, but are pure hidden tax. Why not just be honest and put tax rates up?