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Grants of probate

Personal representatives – known as ‘executors’ where they are appointed by a will, or ‘administrators’ otherwise – are responsible for dealing with the estate of a deceased person. Their authority to receive the assets in the estate is proved by a grant of representation. It is not always necessary to apply for a grant of representation; much depends on the size of the estate and the type of assets it comprises.

A grant of probate is one type of grant of representation, but the expression ‘grant of probate’ is sometimes used as a generic term for all types of grant. In this briefing paper, ‘probate’ includes other forms of grants of representation, unless otherwise stated.

Current fees

At present, probate applications are charged a fee of £155 if made by a professional probate practitioner, and £215 if made by an individual in a personal capacity. These fees apply to estates worth £5,000 or more. The fees were last amended in 2014 when, the Government said, it was still the case that the higher fee for non-professional applicants reflected some of the additional administrative work that was required from the Probate Service to process them.

In December 2016, the then Justice Minister, Sir Oliver Heald, confirmed that, at that time, applications for a grant of probate were set at cost recovery levels. However, in July 2021, the Government stated that it currently costs HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) more to process probate applications than the fees it receives.

Previous proposals to reform probate fees

In 2016, the Government consulted on proposals to introduce a fee structure for applications for grants of probate based on the value of the estate. Using a statutory power to charge enhanced fees, the Government proposed fees set above cost recovery levels, with the intention of using the additional fee income to subsidise other court costs. The Government proposed seven fee bands, with the fee increasing in line with the value of the estate. At that time, fees were to start at £300 for estates worth between £50,000 and £300,000, rising to a maximum fee of £20,000 for estates worth more than £2 million.  

The Government’s proposals attracted widespread comment and criticism. Opponents considered that, among other things, the new fees were excessive and would effectively amount to a form of taxation. The Government subsequently reduced the proposed fees for each band (to fees ranging from £250 for estates worth between £50,000 and £300,000, to £6,000 for estates worth more than £2 million), but opposition to the proposals continued.

In October 2019, the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland, confirmed that the Government no longer intended to proceed with these proposals.  

More detailed information about the Government’s previous proposals is provided in another Library briefing paper, Probate fees (07929).

New consultation on probate fees

On 8 July 2021, the Ministry of Justice launched a new consultation, Aligning the Fees for Grants of Probate to Cost Recovery. The consultation will close on 23 September 2021.

This consultation proposes to align the fees for professional and non‑professional applicants for probate into a single fee of £273 – an increase of £118 for professional applicants and £58 for non-professional applicants. The stated objectives of the proposal are:

  • to bring the fee structure into alignment with Managing Public Money principles, where the same fee should be charged for all users of the same service. There is an unjustified discrepancy between different categories of user, as the costs of processing applications from the two user groups is now broadly equivalent;

  • to set the fee at a level that recovers the cost of providing the service, which would better align with the standard approach to charging fees under Managing Public Money principles …;

  • and to protect access to justice by ensuring that courts and tribunals are adequately resourced in accordance with the Lord Chancellor’s statutory and constitutional duty, while also reducing the overall taxpayer subsidy to HMCTS.

The Government has said the proposed fee reflects the full cost to HMCTS of providing the service and would not generate a profit for the Government.

The Ministerial Foreword points out that this is “a far more modest increase than previous proposals and directly tied to the cost of providing the service” and that the proposal is “markedly different to the Government’s previous proposals to raise income from probate fees”.

Subject to the outcome of the consultation, the Government proposes to introduce the new fee structure in early 2022.


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