The proposal to significantly increase probate fees by linking the court fee to the value of the deceased's estate has hit a bump in the road.
A parliamentary committee has expressed doubts that the Justice Secretary can introduce a 'fee' which really amounts to a tax on the value of the estate to fund the general court system.
The new fee system is supposed to kick in at some point in May, the date has not been confirmed.
However the committee's report could indicate a delay in the implementation of the fee increase while the Government re-thinks how it can be introduced legally. The fee increase is being pursued by the Ministry of Justice despite overwhelming objections during public consultation.
There is also speculation in today's press that Liz Truss may be relieved of her position as Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor. If this happens, it will be for her successor to abandon the fee increase or deal with the practicalities of implementing it.
Until the position becomes clear, anyone currently dealing with an estate and who wants to pay the current fee (£155) should try to apply for probate as soon as possible.
Earlier this year the Ministry of Justice, said it would press ahead with controversial plans to hike probate fees so that they are in line with the value of the estate. The changes will in some cases see fees hiked by as much as 129 times. The money generated, expected to be around £250 million per year, will be used to fund the courts and tribunals service. However today’s report says: ‘The committee has a real doubt as to whether the lord chancellor may use a power to prescribe non-contentious probate fees for the purpose of funding services which executors do not seek to use.’ According to the committee, the new probate charges appear to ‘have the hallmarks of taxes rather than fees’, and are disproportionate to the service provided by the probate registry