Plans to increase probate fees shelved after election called

The Ministry of Justice had proposed scrapping the flat fee for probate applications and introducing a banded structure based on the value of estates

Wills: probate measure scrapped for now
Wills: probate measure scrapped for now

Controversial plans to increase probate fees have been shelved after planned legislation to introduce changes ran out of parliamentary time because of the snap general election.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Justice proposed abolishing the existing £215 flat fee for probate applications and called for the introduction of a banded structure based on the value of an estate. The new system would have meant a £500,000 estate incurring a probate fee of £4,000.

According to the Institute of Legacy Management, charities could have lost £18m a year in legacy income if the probate fee reforms were introduced.

But a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice confirmed that the statutory instrument on probate fees would not have time to complete its passage through parliament before the election, and that it would then be a matter for the new government.

It is not yet known if the reforms will be resurrected after the election.

The announcement comes after a report by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, which scrutinises statutory instruments laid before parliament, said the probate fee reforms should be referred back to parliament amid concerns that the changes were an "unexpected use" of existing powers to set fees above cost-recovery levels.

The report said that probate fees were there to support an administrative process and expressed concern that the government’s changes to the system amounted to a tax on probate.

Chris Millward, chief executive of the Institute of Legacy Management, said he welcomed the news that the legislation had been dropped.

"Our members – along with donors, executors, solicitors and charities – were overwhelmingly against the proposals," he said.

"We now seek reassurance from the Ministry of Justice that the proposals are scrapped for good, and not simply put on hold in the lead-up to the general election."

Jo Coleman, a partner at the law firm Bond Dickinson and a member of the executive committee of the Charity Law Association, said: "The news that the changes to the probate fee structure will not make it through parliament before the election is a welcome relief for charities. We just have to hope that this controversial change will not be taken forward in its current form by the new government."

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