York solicitor Rachel Roche today hailed news of the Government’s decision to scrap planned increases in probate fees as a “victory for common sense.”
Rachel Roche, founder of Roche Legal, has been supported by local MP Julian Sturdy in her bid to get the Government to change their mind over the changes that would have seen the wealthiest families pay almost £6,000 more to secure legal control over a deceased person’s estate. Rachel said: “ The changes that were proposed were, in effect, a tax on grief and this decision is a victory for common sense as it would have impacted on families at an incredibly emotional time.”
Mr Sturdy, MP for York Outer raised questions from Rachel Roche with Lucy Frazer QC, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, and made it clear the proposals “amount to an unacceptably drastic increase which will turn probate fees from an administrative charge into a form of inheritance tax.”
The changes were put forward last November to replace the current flat-fee system and revolved around a sliding scale with charges increasing depending on the size of the estate. As a result of this U turn, people in England and Wales will continue to pay a probate fee of £215 on estates worth more than £5,000, or £155 if applying through a solicitor.
The Ministry of Justice’s decision means that an estimated 280,000 families annually will no longer have to face higher charges which had been forecast to deliver an extra £185m a year for the MoJ by 2022/23.
A MoJ spokeswoman said: “Fees are necessary to properly fund our world-leading courts system, but we have listened carefully to concerns around changes to those charged for probate and will look at them again as part of a wider review to make sure all fees are fair and proportionate.”
Step, the professional body for inheritance and trust advisers which had campaigned against the increases, welcomed news of the decision with Emily Deane, technical counsel commenting: “This follows many months of work by Step and many others to highlight the unfairness of the proposed increase, which amounted to a stealth tax on the bereaved. This at last brings an end to the uncertainty and worry that these proposals have caused to grieving families.”