MPs challenge lawfulness of proposed increase in probate fees

The UK government is to plough ahead with a plan to raise probate fees by up to £20,000, even after a parliamentary committee said the increases were unlawful. The government is hoping to raise £300 million by increasing probate fees to fund the courts and tribunal services. But a parliamentary committee has said that this may not be legally enforceable because the Ministry of Justice may not have the authority to introduce the charges.

The MoJ has defended the charges on the grounds that it is “fair and proportionate” and that those who can afford to use the courts should make a greater contribution to their overall funding. The cost of applying for probate, the legal authority to distribute someone’s estate after they die, is set to rise by from a flat rate of between £155 and £215 to a sliding scale based on estate values. Probate fees will rise to £20,000 for estates valued at more than £2 million.

The change to the probate system was authorised by the justice secretary and lord chancellor, Liz Truss, in February this year.  The parliamentary committee said that increasing the fees was equivalent to putting in place new taxes, because they are “disproportionate to the service provided”. The committee questioned whether Liz Truss is “acting beyond” her powers by pushing through the changes using a statutory instrument, rather than through an act of parliament.

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