MOJ starts centralising the probate service
Author: Judith Bromley
Regional probate offices across England and Wales are being closed down so that the service can be brought under one roof.
The move is part of the Ministry of Justice’s wider £1 billion plan to upgrade the Courts and Tribunals Service. Ministers believe the modernisation programme will improve the service by bringing together shared expertise.
But, concerns have been raised by solicitors who are worried that removing the face-to-face element of probate work will have a detrimental impact on the trust required to administer people’s estates. There are also likely to be questions asked about why the government is cutting back on the probate service when it has signalled its intention to increase probate fees.
Under recent proposals outlined by the government, probate fees would be based on a sliding scale of charges depending on the size of the estate. Those with assets valued at £2 million or more would pay £6,000 instead of the flat £215 fee.
The new charging structure is expected to generate £145 million in additional income in the next financial year. Critics, however, have slammed the government for trying to introduce a ‘stealth tax’ by putting the onus on the bereaved to fund or subsidise other parts of the courts and tribunal service.
Under the probate office closure programme, the MOJ plans to move the probate service to the Courts and Tribunals Service Centre in Birmingham. Unless people are prepared to travel there, they won’t be able to personally apply for probate, so would have no alternative than to use a solicitor.