It’s hard to disagree with the Law Society’s recent demands that any increase in probate fees must reflect new and tangible improvements made to the Probate service, writes Olivia Meekin, a Partner in our Private Client team.
Last year clients experienced delays of 12 to 14 weeks on average to receive their grant. This is unacceptable, the service must be timely and allow executors to settle a loved one’s estate without additional burden during an already difficult time.
The current fees are £155 for professional users and £215 for non-professional users but the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is proposing to change to one single probate fee of £273 for all applications.
“While we support the MoJ’s overall aim to make a simpler, more streamlined process for users of the probate service, and we understand funds are needed to facilitate this, we do question why the UK government has decided to increase fees at this time,” says Law Society president Stephanie Boyce.
In July, reported here HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) reported it had received 15,965 digital probate applications and 6,883 paper applications. That same month, 22,375 grants of probate were issued.
Stephanie Boyce added: “Court closures, the digitisation strategy and increased fees across various court jurisdictions have already produced savings and income for the court systems.
“Any hike in fees now must reflect new and tangible improvements made to the service. At the very least, a commitment from the UK government that revenue from this increase will be used for probate service improvements. In 2020, the probate application service moved almost entirely online. Once this becomes the norm and once the immediate effects of the pandemic have settled, we recommend the UK government reviews the fees on a periodic basis.
“The UK government should also implement a minimum service level standard for applications. If the service drops below that standard on an individual application, then there should be an automatic reimbursement of a percentage of the fee.”
It is no secret the probate service has faced delays for people applying for probate grants or letters of administration. The service also experienced an unexpected loss of staff in the spring which hit its performance.
Before the new fee structure is introduced, I would suggest that HMCTS addresses the service issues as a matter of urgency and makes the necessary improvements to provide a service which both legal professionals and citizens can have confidence in.
If you are in need of advice or assistance on any of the issues mentioned in this article please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or another member of our expert Private Client Team on 020 7631 4141 or email email@example.com
The above is correct as at 17 December 2021. The information above may be subject to change as this is a constantly evolving situation.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.