The Law Society has told the government that a rise in probate fees should be matched by improvements to the service.
The current fees are £155 for professional users and £215 for non-professional users. These would change to one single probate fee of £273 for all applications under proposals put forward by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “While we support the MoJ’s overall aim to make a simpler, more streamlined process for users of the probate service, and we understand funds are needed to facilitate this, we do question why the UK government has decided to increase fees at this time.”
HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) reported in July that it had received 15,965 digital probate applications and 6,883 paper applications. That same month, 22,375 grants of probate were issued.
Boyce added: “It is no secret the probate service has faced delays for people applying for probate grants or letters of administration. In 2020, people had to wait 12 to 14 weeks on average to receive their grant. This is unacceptable, the service must be timely and allow executors to settle a loved one’s estate without additional burden during an already difficult time.
“Any hike in fees now must reflect new and tangible improvements made to the service. At the very least, a commitment from the UK government that revenue from this increase will be used for probate service improvements.
“The UK government should also implement a minimum service level standard for applications. If the service drops below that standard on an individual application, then there should be an automatic reimbursement of a percentage of the fee.
“The service also experienced an unexpected loss of staff in the spring which hit its performance. To avoid a similar reoccurrence, it will be important for HMCTS to ensure they have sufficient resources, with the necessary knowledge and expertise, to handle probate matters.
“It is vital that HMCTS addresses the service issues as a matter of urgency and makes the necessary improvements to provide a service which both legal professionals and citizens have confidence in, before the new fee is introduced.”
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