Affluent families in England and Wales face paying probate charges of up to £6,000 from April 2019 after ministers confirmed it as a fee rather than a tax.

Families currently pay a flat fee of up to £215 to obtain the grant of probate needed in England and Wales to administer estates worth more than £5,000.

Critics had labelled the move as a ‘stealth tax'. A tax proper would usually be introduced in a parliamentary bill before going through a committee stage, being debated and voted on by MPs and Lords.

Ministers, however, circumnavigated this by classifying the charges as a fee, which saw the legislation narrowly approved by MPs and passed as a statutory instrument.

Instead of the current flat rate in place until 5 April 2019, the proposed system sets fees on the following sliding scale based on the value of the estate.

Value of estate before inheritance tax Proposed fee 
 Up to £50,000 or exempt from requiring a grant of probate£0
 £50,000 - £300,000£250
 £300,000 - £500,000£750
 £500,000 - £1m£2,500
 £1m - £1.6m£4,000
 £1.6m - £2m£5,000
 Above £2m £6,000

Lucy Frazer, minister of justice, said:

“The reform of the [probate] service aims to reduce the burden on applicants, by providing a more efficient and simpler application process.

“By raising the estate value threshold from £5,000 to £50,000, we will be lifting around 25,000 estates annually out of fees altogether.

“For those who do pay, around 80% of estates will pay £750 or less.”

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