Government U-turns on probate fee plans that would have cost charities millions 

14 Oct 2019 News

The Ministry of Justice has decided not to introduce a new probate fee regime which could have cost the charity sector up to £10m. 

Changes had been dubbed the “death tax” by the Daily Mail, which has been lobbying against the changes.

The granting of probate is the process whereby a will is accepted as a valid public document by a court of law, allowing the estate of a deceased person to be administered. Currently there is a flat fee for probate of £155, but the government had been planning to introduce a sliding scale so that estates with a higher value would pay more.

Charity bodies, including the Institute of Fundraising, Remember A Charity, NCVO and the Institute of Legacy Management had warned that the changes could cost charities up to £10m. 

Now the secretary of state for justice Robert Buckland has said the proposed changes have been scrapped and that a wider review of court fees will be carried out. 

He told the Mail: “I have listened very carefully to the strong views aired on proposed new probate fees.

“While fees are necessary to properly fund our world-leading courts system, they must be fair and proportionate. We will withdraw these proposals, and keep the current system while we take a closer look at these court fees as part of our annual wider review.”

The announcement has been welcomed by the sector. 

Rob Cope, director of Remember A Charity, said: “We're hugely relieved to hear that there will be no major increase to probate fees and that that the current structure will be retained, at least for the time-being. Charities large and small rely heavily on gifts in wills. Worth around £3bn a year, we simply can’t afford to risk jeopardising such an important income stream or to reverse the trend for growth in legacy giving.
 
“We’ll continue to work closely with government to ensure the sector’s views are heard and that the legacy environment is protected. This includes ensuring that concerns about the prolonged delays to probate are addressed and the sector keep informed.”

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