A Freedom of Information request tabled by mutual insurer Royal London has shown that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is treating bereaved families as an easy source of revenue, according to the firm's policy director.
At present, grants of probate cost a flat fee of £155 when the grant is sought by a solicitor and £215 when the application is made by an individual. Estates where probate is required but which are worth less than £5,000 currently attract no fee. Under the reformed proposals, estates worth under £50,000 would attract no fee, but beyond this the fee would increase on a sliding scale ranging from £300 to a maximum of £20,000.
Royal London tabled a request to the MoJ asking for the average cost of handling a probate application. The request also asked for the cost of handling applications broken down by the size of the estate. In the reply, the MoJ said that not only did it not have this information but that it had 'no business or managerial' reason to have this information. The reply thereby confirmed that the new rates proposed from May 2017 do not relate to the cost of providing the service, which MoJ says it does not know, but are simply a revenue raising measure.
Commenting, Royal London director of policy Steve Webb said:
"The Government is treating bereaved families as if they were a 'nice little earner'. It is one thing to make a reasonable charge for the provision of a public service. But the Ministry of Justice has now admitted it does not know the unit cost of handling a probate application and sees no reason to find out what it is. This is clear evidence that the new charging structures are nothing to do with recovering the reasonable cost of processing probate applications and are simply a backdoor way of raising money from people in their time of greatest need. The Government should think again before going ahead with this tax hike on bereaved families".
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About Royal London:
Royal London is the largest mutual life, pensions and investment company in the UK, with funds under management of £117 billion, 8.8 million policies in force and 3,745 employees. Figures quoted are as at 30 June 2018.