Probate Money Grab – It’s Back On

Probate Money Grab – It’s Back On

I mentioned in –Link Here – this Blog the amazing Government proposal that the Court fee for issuing Probate should increase from today’s maximum – of £215 (£430 for a couple dying, one shortly after the other), – to £6000.00 (or £12,000.00 for a couple dying, one shortly after the other,)

 The figures above are actually less than was originally proposed. Not that that matters at all to the principle of the thing.

The work done by the Court in issuing a Grant of Probate typically is to check that a Solicitor or applicant in person has got the sums right, then to apply a stamp and presumably make an entry on a computer.

Time involved – what? – 30 minutes with a cup of coffee, less than that if it’s getting near to going home.

And this is the case WHATEVER THE VALUE OF THE ESTATE.

£430.00 is a bit high, that fee, isn’t it? The Government’s own figures confirm that the fee is well adequate to cover the cost of supplying the service. So, £12,000.00 per couple is clearly not a fee is it, it’s a tax.

In essence no difference to going into a shop for cigarettes and getting them free if you are on benefits and having to pay a made-up figure of hundreds of pounds (or however much the government feels like) if you have got a nice house.

Now is the time to write to your MP, if you think this is wrong. The reasons why you may think it is wrong might be
• because you believe that the estate of a person who has died has already suffered tax, because the income that was earned during life was subject to income tax, and that the same estate will be subject to Inheritance Tax, and that a third tax for Probate fees is one tax too many
• because you believe that a conservative government should support the idea of hard work generating capital which can pass from parent to child rather than be swiped in two separate ways on the parent’s death
• because if you voted conservative, you did not vote for this
• Because if you do wish to vote for politicians who are conservatives, but the ones in government behave like this, then there doesn’t seem to be any party you can actually vote for.

A much more articulate person than I is John Eaton, a Consultant Solicitor in Leeds, who has sent me a copy of his letter to his MP and with his consent the rest of this Blog is that letter. If you think he is wrong let me know. If you think he is right, maybe tell your MP. NOW, would be a good time!

Dear Philip

I apologise for bending your ear yet again with another tirade against this iniquitous, unfair and totally unjustifiable stealth tax, which the Government insist on describing (wrongly) as an “increase in fees” – but following the very disappointing outcome of the Parliamentary Committee meeting on Thursday this week (when the proposal was inexplicably passed by 9 votes to 8) it seems that the only way of preventing this regrettable and sordid little proposal from becoming law, will be for MPs to vote it down when the proposal comes before the Commons in the near future.

For this reason, and knowing that you also regard the levy of this tax as wrong and unjustified, I am hoping that you lay also be able to influence some of your fellow MPs to vote against the proposal when it is presented.

I am sure that you will be familiar with all the arguments against the proposal, and the total absence of any argument in favour of it, but just to re-cap briefly on three of the main arguments for voting against the proposal, as usefully summarised in the following explanation by the Law Society:

The Law Society’s key positions on the Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order 2018

• We believe the dramatic increase in fees amounts to a stealth tax. We agree with the conclusions of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, and the House of Lords that the scale of the fee increase is a misuse of the Lord Chancellor’s fee-levying power. (By way of additional comment from me: – to completely ignore the conclusions of those authoritative bodies is both unreasonable and arrogant in the extreme)

• The fee increase is disproportionate. The service involved in a grant of probate is the same whether an estate is worth £50,000 or £2 million. However, under the new proposals, some estates would face a charge of £6,000. This is excessive, particularly when compared to the current fee of £215 (or £155 if done by a solicitor).

• It is unfair to expect the bereaved to fund or subsidise other parts of the court and tribunal service, particularly in circumstances where they have no other options but to use the probate service.

For these reasons, the Law Society urges members of the Fourteenth Delegated Legislation Committee and other members of the House to object to the Order, and to vote against the motion to approve

Just to add to the above, I stress that the work for which the alleged ”fee” is charged, comprises about half an hour of pure administrative work – nearly all done by computer anyway, and which does not bear any relation to the size of the estate, nor does the proposed “fee” have any bearing on the cost of providing the service. For these reason, the proposed tax has been universally condemned by all the relevant professional bodies – Solicitors, Accountants, Trust & Probate Practitioners – and yet the Government STILL ignores these objections and STILL refuses to acknowledge that the levying of a fee of up to £6,000 for a service which currently costs £155, is unreasonable and is a tax, not a fee.

In passing, I must say on that point, that I find it surprising that Lucy Frazer QC doesn’t know the difference between a fee and a tax. Although (as you know) I wrote to her explaining that a “fee” is a charge for a service provided and will reflect the time, effort and skill in providing that service, and a “tax” is a levy on a document or transaction will usually vary with the value of the transaction, it was clear from her reply (via you, for which thanks!) that she simply doesn’t understand that difference, and still sees nothing wrong with raising a tax on service “A” (issuing a Grant of Representation) in order to subsidise service “B” (the Justice System generally).

On this basis, why doesn’t the Government charge a fee on Undertakers’ invoices, of, say, 25% of the amount of the invoice, in order to subsidise Legal Aid? There would be just as much logic in that, as in this outrageous “Death Tax.”

Needless to say, I am also dismayed – nay, even disgusted – that a Conservative Party, which claims to believe in freedom and justice should seek to impose such an unjust and unjustified tax on the relatives of dead people (in addition to all the lifetime taxes and Inheritance Tax which the Deceased will have paid in their lifetimes). If there were an alternative Party which claimed to believe in freedom, fairness and individual responsibility, but unlike this one, actually practised what it preached, I am sorry to say that I wouldn’t hesitate to vote for such a party in place of a Conservative Party which appears to have jettisoned entirely the principles of fairness on which it was launched, and prefers to sacrifice morality on the altar of financial gain.

I do hope that you will not only vote against this outrageous and sordid little proposal, but may be able to persuade all your Parliamentary Colleagues also to do so.

With best wishes

John

In summary – They just want your money really and they will lie and distort to get it. Personally, I’d rather John Lee Hooker got it. Link here

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