Probate fees are set to rocket for many homeowners, after the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) replaced a flat fee with a rate which will be up to 129 times bigger for some estates.
The current fee of £155 for a solicitor to apply for probate will rise to £20,000 for estates larger than £2m.
The new fee structure will rise from nothing for estates worth less than £50,000 to £4,000 for estates worth between £500,000 and £1m.
With the average house price in London currently standing at £484,000, a significant proportion of the owners of property in the capital would charged at the highest rate before other assets are taken into account.
The MoJ’s response to its consultation on the new fee structure notes the need to raise revenue for the courts service.
In light of funding restraints, “we must look at ways to make sure that [the courts system] is funded adequately now and in the future,” the consultation document said.
There were 63 responses in favour of the new fee structure, with 695 against the changes to probate fees, which pay for legal administration after a person's death.
George Hodgson, chief executive of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (Step), said he was “very disappointed” the MoJ had gone ahead with “what represents a new tax on bereaved families.”
He added: “This is back-door taxation and we note that there is not even an attempt in the MoJ’s response to justify the fairness of these new charges.”