York MP Julian Sturdy has thrown his support behind local solicitor Rachel Roche who is campaigning to highlight planned increases in probate fees turning them a “ tax on grief”.
The MP for York Outer has written Lucy Frazer QC, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, asking for “greater clarity” on the proposed changes with fees rising to as much as £6,000 on largest estates, instead of a flat fee of £215, or £155 if dealt with by a solicitor. The new fees were due to be introduced, but have been delayed by Brexit with Labour insisting they are going to try and block the move when it comes before MPs.
Mr Sturdy has raised important questions from Rachel Roche about the probate changes, making it clear to Lucy Frazer that they “amount to an unacceptably drastic increase which will turn probate fees from an administrative charge into a form of inheritance tax.”
Mr Sturdy also backed Rachel Roche’s assertion that there will be a “severe disparity” with Scotland and Northern Ireland which will cause “ considerable resentment amongst taxpayers in England and provides a loophole for those seeking to avoid the fees.” Despite a telephone conversation following up his letter, the York MP admits that “these are not points that the Minister has adequately acknowledged in her response.”
Critics claim the increased charges are effectively a new tax, which is expected to raise £155million a year to pay for running the Ministry of Justice, and won’t reflect administration costs. In February, the cost of a death certificate almost tripled from £4 to £11.
Rachel, founder of Roche Legal, believes bereaved families need to be aware of the scale of the probate problem and said: “ We are extremely grateful for Julian Sturdy’s support to highlight this worrying change to the probate fees which are going to impact on families at an incredibly emotional time. Pressure needs to be maintained to ensure fundamental concerns about this new” tax” on grieving families are addressed before they come into force.”
Rachel Roche is also warning bereaved families they could face delays of up two months to sort out financial issues due to a backlog created by a new online probate service.
Before the new IT system was introduced in January, it normally took ten days for a court to grant probate and give the legal go ahead to take control of someone’s finances when they die. However, bereaved families in Yorkshire, like the rest of the country, are having to deal with this added worry.
The Leeds District Probate Registry has written to local probate practitioners warning that there is a backlog of applications and they are still dealing with matters submitted in March. Rachel added: ““The delays faced by our clients and other families in processing these applications is adding to the stress and worry they are experiencing, at what is already a difficult time. If probate is required for the sale of property, there is a real risk that the sale could be lost because of these delays and additional expenses incurred by the estate in remarketing the properties. Many aspects of winding up an estate cannot be completed without probate and extending the period in which families have to wait to deal with this can take its toll.”