The Ministry of Justice has proposed a dramatic change in the structure of probate court fees.
Currently, these court fees are fixed for all estates when applying for a grant of representation using a solicitor at a flat rate of £155.
The proposed reforms suggest that estates worth less than £50,000 should now be exempt from paying any court fees whereas estates valued between £50,000 to £300,000 should pay court fees of £300.
The biggest shake up would apply for larger estates worth more than 2 million pounds who would have to pay probate court fees of £20,000.
Although it could be argued that these larger estates are best placed to pay higher fees, there may well be practical problems in cases where the person who dies leaves large assets but little or no liquid funds (ie. cash at the bank) available to the executors to pay the court fees. In these situations, the executors would need to consider taking out a loan to pay the large court fees which would surely delay matters and place greater stress on the family in what is already a very difficult time.
The period to consult with the government over these reforms will end on the 1st April 2016 and so it remains to be seen whether or not the proposed changes meet strong opposition from the legal sector and public at large.