Controversial plans to raise legal fees payable after death are to be scrapped ahead of election

Prior to today, there were controversial plans in place to raise the probate fees which are paid after death. It was announced today that due to the upcoming election, these plans will be scrapped.

Probate charges are paid to the government when someone dies and the executor of their estate gathers their assets to distribute to beneficiaries of a will.

Probate fees had been due to rise, from a flat rate of £155 (with a solicitor) and £215 (without a solicitor) to a new sliding scale method of between £0 to up to £20,000 for some estates in England and Wales from May. This meant that those estates worth over £2 million would be charges £20,000 in court fees. However, those estates with a value of less than £50,000 would not have been charged under the new proposals.

The Ministry of Justice said there was now not enough time for the legislation – dubbed a “death tax” by critics – to go through Parliament.

The conservative party have declined to comment whether the policy will be brought back into parliament if they were to be re-elected.

Whilst most people will be worse off under the new proposals, an additional 25,000 estates per year would not have been charged a probate fee at all.

The increase in legal fees had been estimated to raise an additional £300m per year towards the running of Her Majesties Courts and Tribunal service.

The fee increase has been controversial for some time. At the beginning of April, a committee of MPs and peers questioned whether the charges were legal. Some were quoted to say that the new fees “appear… to have the hallmarks of taxes rather than fees”. This legislation was regularly dubbed as a “death tax” and was akin to bringing in new taxes without parliamentary approval.

The parliamentary committee also claimed that the fee increases were “disproportionate to the service provided by the Probate Registry”.

The ministry of Justice hit back at those claims saying that “we will introduce a fairer system where over 90% of people will pay less than £1,000”.

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