Probate fees reform, round three
The Government’s third attempt at revamping the cost of obtaining grant of probate in England and Wales is much more modest in scope than the previous two. The introduction of the new fee structure is planned for early 2022.
There is a two-tier fee structure under the current system. The cost is £215 for an application from an individual, and £155 if the application is from a solicitor. Fees were last amended seven years ago, and at that time the cost differential reflected some of the additional administrative work required by the probate service to process applications made by individuals.
- The cost differential between professional and individual applications has substantially reduced, so the latest proposal is to have a single fee of £273; considerably less than the £20,000 maximum suggested back in 2016, or £6,000 in 2018.
- No fee is payable for very small estates of £5,000 or less.
- The same fees apply for obtaining letters of administration where the deceased was intestate.
Many estates do not need to go through probate. In some cases the value of the deceased’s assets is low. The cut-off point can be anything between £10,000 and £50,000. Each bank and financial organisation has its own rules on how much money it will release before seeing a grant of probate. If all assets are jointly owned, they automatically pass to the surviving owners.
Even when probate is required, you can save the high fees charged by probate specialists if the estate is uncomplicated; approximately 40% of applications for probate are made by individuals in such circumstances. The Death Notification Service lets you notify a number of financial institutions of a person's death at the same time, and My Lost Account will help trace lost bank and building society accounts, and also NS&I products. It is worth obtaining multiple copies of a death certificate from the beginning as the cost of requesting these later can go up.
Because of Covid-19, probate applications are taking up to eight weeks to process.
If you are involved in a probate application, the government’s guide is a good starting point.