The new 'Death Tax': Government to ramp up probate fees

Updated on 19 February 2016 | 30 Comments

Thousands of bereaved families face huge jump in fees paid to activate a will.

The Government has proposed new probate fees which could see bereaved families paying out thousands of pounds in a move already criticised as a new ‘Death Tax’.

Probate fees are the legal costs paid by relatives to activate a will. They are currently set at a flat rate of £215 for all estates worth at least £5,000.

However, the Government wants to move to a tiered system, depending on the value of the estate. This would see families managing estates worth more than £300,000 having to shell out £1,000, more than four times more than the current fee.

Here are the proposed new fees. 

Value of estate

Probate fee

Up to £50,000

No fee

£50,000 to £300,000


£300,000 to £500,000


£500,000 to £1m


£1m to £1.6m


£1.6m to £2m


More than £2m


As you can see, estates worth less than £50,000 will no longer pay any fee at all under the new structure. According to the Ministry of Justice, 57% of estates fall within this banding, so plenty of families will actually benefit from the change. Shailesh Vara, justice minister, said that 84% of estates would incur fees of no more than £300, while 94% will pay £1,000 or less.

He added: “[These fee changes] are also necessary, making a significant contribution to reducing the deficit and enabling investment which will transform the courts and tribunals service.”

The Government will consult on these proposals until April.

What is probate?

When someone dies, their loved ones will need to get the legal right to deal with their estate – the money, property and possessions that they have left behind.

If they have left a will, then an executor will be named. This person will need to apply for a ‘grant of representation’, otherwise known as probate, which will allow them to access things like the deceased’s bank account. They will then be responsible for paying any Inheritance Tax that’s due, paying off any debts, and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries named in the will.

If the deceased did not leave a will, then someone will still need to apply for a grant of representation to administer the estate. You can usually apply if you were their next of kin, spouse or child. However you cannot apply if you were their partner but were not their husband, wife or civil partner when they died.

You can apply for a grant of representation yourself, or use a solicitor or someone licensed to provide probate services. You can find the probate application form on the Department of Justice website.

You will then need to send your application to your local Probate Registry. This will need to include an Inheritance Tax form, even if you believe no tax is owed (you can find the forms on the website), an official copy of the death certificate, the original will (and three copies) and the application fee.

The probate office will send you an oath which you need to swear at either a local probate office or the office of a commissioner for oaths (generally a solicitor).

You should then get the grant through within 10 days of swearing the oath.

Take control of your pension with a SIPP

Be better off with loveMONEY:

The WORST train companies

Million motorists face £1,000 fine

Shopping hack to save a packet at Aldi


Be the first to comment

Do you want to comment on this article? You need to be signed in for this feature

Copyright © All rights reserved.