AAT says that it supports the proposed increase in fees for professionals from £215 to £273 and for the alignment of fees amongst professionals and non-professionals.
The association said that because there has never been a strong case for charging professionals and non-professionals different fee rates for probate, it strongly welcomes the proposal to end what it calls a “discriminatory practice“.
Additionally there is very little justification for any public subsidy for the probate application process. The association says that the fact it currently costs HMCTS more to process applications than the fees it receives is “an anomaly that should be ended”, and by doing so will also eliminate what are effectively upwards of £20 million in annual losses.
In its statement AAT also considered the affordability of fees, commenting that “it would not want anyone, least of all those dealing with a recent death, to suffer any form of financial hardship”, but the association notes the smallest estates (those below £5,000) are exempt from probate fees.
Furthermore, it notes, that those applicants with large estates but financial difficulties can apply for help via the Help with Fees scheme1. Ultimately, the cost is covered by the estate, and as the consultation document notes, even those who may initially face a short-term cash-flow problem with regards to paying the fee, are likely to benefit from the flexibility most banks and building societies offer in allowing the executor to access funds in the accounts of the deceased for such matters.
Finally, the association refers to the last increase, which took place in 2016 and was at the time supposed to cover the actual costs of administration too. In order to future-proof the fees and avoid the need for periodic reviews and larger overall increases, AAT suggests that the fee should not only increase to £273 but that it should increase in line with inflation on an annual basis.