Owen Kenny Solicitors recently shared a link on Facebook to a petition (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/188175) with 33,619 signatures and the UK Government has responded as follows:
The Government is reforming fees for grants of probate by replacing flat fees with a new fairer and proportionate tiered structure, where the fee payable relates to the value of the estate.
The best way to protect access to justice in the long term is with a properly funded justice system that is easy for ordinary people to use.
In 2015/16, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service cost around £1.9 billion to run, with only around £700m recovered in fees. We do not believe that the taxpayer should continue to meet all of this cost, and it is fair to ask those who can afford it to contribute more.
Parliament has given Lord Chancellor the power to set certain fees, including probate, above cost-recovery levels, and the income raised is ring-fenced to fund an efficient and effective court and tribunal system.
Under our new probate fee structure, more than half of all estates will pay no fee at all. This includes an extra 25,000 estates who will no longer pay fees under our plans to raise the fee threshold from £5,000 to £50,000 estate value. A fee will not be payable if a married couple or civil partners held their assets jointly, as on the death of the first spouse or partner the assets would pass to the surviving spouse directly without a grant of probate being required.
Under our proposals, over 90% of estates will pay £1,000 or less. No fee will be more than 1% of the total value of the estate. This is fair and proportionate.
There are a number of ways that executors will be able to fund the new fees. The cost of the fee is recoverable from the estate, and executors have a number of options to fund it – no fee should be unaffordable. We expect that in most cases, banks will release cash from the estate to pay for the fee.
The Probate Service will also be able to provide access for executors to the assets of the estate for the purpose of paying the necessary fee, and other avenues of funding will also be available. In exceptional circumstances where this is not possible or appropriate the Lord Chancellor retains the power to remit the fee.
Ministry of Justice