The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has confirmed that a highly contentious increase in probate fees is set to take effect in a couple of months’ time.
Pending Parliamentary approval, a new regime will be rolled out in May, which will see estates charged up to £20,000.
Under the present arrangement, the fees are imposed at a flat rate of £155 if the individual is applying through a solicitor.
In sharp contrast, the new charges will operate on a sliding scale. While this will mean that estates of less than £50,000 will be exempt, the largest will face bills of up to £20,000.
Priti Shah, Private Client Partner at OGR Stock Denton, said: “In Jersey, probate fees are linked to the value of the estate but they do not have any Inheritance Tax in Jersey.
“To impose such fees in England is like levying a disguised Inheritance Tax charge, as executors do not have a choice but to pay these fees if they have to obtain a grant of probate to administer the estate.”
Senior Associate Geoff Dennis said: “It is disappointing that the overwhelming majority of respondents who objected to the original MoJ consultation have been ignored.
“Further, this massive increase in the probate fee could present a significant obstacle for bereaved families at a difficult time if they do not have access to sufficient funds upfront to cover this.”
The Government had previously admitted that the increases are part of plans to raise an additional £250million for the Courts and Tribunal Service, but has tried to argue the change in arrangements will make for a fairer system.
This has been refuted by organisations such as the Law Society, which was among the bodies to voice their opposition when the proposals were put out to consultation.
“It is unfair and discriminatory to expect the bereaved to fund/subsidise other parts [of the service],” said a spokesman.
“Court fees are a necessary source of funding but should not be charged over and above the cost of the specific service.”
Critics, who argue that the larger fees are entirely disproportionate to the work carried out, fear that the change could leave some people feeling compelled to give away assets during their lifetime in order to fall below the threshold for the most exorbitant charges.