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E&W: Probate fee changes narrowly approved by Commons committee

Thursday, 7 February, 2019

The UK government's plans to bring in a new a banded probate fee system in England and Wales where fees would increase with the value of the estate have moved substantially closer to becoming a reality, following a House of Commons Delegated Legislation Committee vote. The Committee narrowly voted in favour of progressing the draft Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order 2018 to the Commons for approval.

The Statutory Instrument was approved by nine votes to eight, and will now go before the House of Commons, where it will likely be approved.

Lucy Frazer MP, the Minister responsible for the legislation, confirmed during her speech that the changes would be introduced in April (date yet to be confirmed) and that guidance on how to pay fees will be published before the changes take effect.

The proposal to link probate fees to the value of the estate has attracted overwhelming opposition since it was first raised. A number of bodies, including STEP, have questioned the legality of the way this fee structure is being brought in, given that it bears no relation to the cost of processing the application, and looks very like a tax and should therefore be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny, rather than brought in through a Statutory Instrument.

Responding to this latest development, STEP Chief Executive Mark Walley said: 'We are very disappointed that, despite our efforts and those of a number of other bodies, the changes to probate fees look set to be brought in. If they are, we hope that the government will listen to our calls to alleviate pressure on bereaved families by applying the new fees to the estates of people who die after they are introduced. This would seem to be the most sensitive and sensible way of introducing this.'

The date for the House of Commons final vote has not yet been announced.