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Delays to probate applications are in danger of undermining property transactions, as people try to complete their paperwork prior to the introduction of proposed changes to the system.
Under the government’s new sliding scale of probate fees, estates valued in excess of £2m will pay £6,000, while those worth between £1.6m and £2m will face costs of £5,000. Estates valued at less than £50,000 will be exempt from paying.
Currently, families pay a flat fee of £215 for probate, or £155 if they apply via a solicitor.
The new fees were scheduled to come into force on 1 April, but have been delayed for an unspecified period, pending Parliamentary approval.
In addition, the government is moving the probate application system online and looking to close physical probate registries as part of cost-saving measures.
Solicitors are now warning that the system is struggling to cope with the surge in demand and that there is considerable risk of property deals falling through as a result.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Andrew Wilkinson of Lime Solicitors said: “A glut of applications has inevitably slowed down the process, meaning that grants are taking months to be issued rather than weeks.”
The newspaper added that while courts aim to process applications within 10 days, they have currently extended the deadline to four weeks.
In a written statement to Parliament last year, Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said: “This new banded fee model represents a fair and more progressive way to pay for probate services compared to the current flat fee and reflects our commitment to protecting access to justice by ensuring we have a properly funded and resourced courts system.”