The proposal to impose a heavy tax on dying is still on the House of Commons calendar awaiting approval. Meanwhile the polemic over Brexit continues unabated.
The idea of increasing the cost of dying from £215 to as much as £6,000 could therefore become the new normal before the parliamentary debate begins.
This might have already happened had Brexit not pushed the draft Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order 2018 down the agenda.
However the government will need to get the notion through before the new Parliamentary session due in June to prevent it lapsing.
Regional Probate Centres Already Falling Under the Axe
The Law Society Gazette has reported the Ministry of Justice taking steps towards “closing down regional probate registries and moving the service under one roof”.
We hope this is not another stage down the road to replace personalised service with a bot, at least as far as people far away from the future hub are concerned.
The Law Society Gazette understands people in the 10 remaining regional centres have been “told of intentions to scale back their operations and eventually close down the sites”.
The Ministers involved apparently believe this will bring together shared expertise as they upgrade the courts and tribunals services.
President of Law Society of England and Wales Highly Critical
Christina Blacklaws, president has said “The government’s proposed increases to probate fees have been unpopular with both consumers and the legal profession since the very beginning”.
According to The Express she adds “The costs to the courts for granting probate do not change whether the estate is worth £50,000 or £2 million. “Making larger estates pay more is effectively just increasing the level of inheritance tax by stealth.
“It is inherently unfair to expect the bereaved to subsidise other parts of the courts and tribunal service, particularly in circumstances where they have no other option but to apply for probate. This is a tax on grief.”
Ministry of Justice Strongly Defends Tax on Grief
The Express cites a Ministry of Justice spokesperson responding to criticism as follows. “Our system will see thousands of bereaved families paying no probate fees at all – protecting an additional 25,000 estates each year.
“Fees are vital to the effective running of our courts and tribunals, ensuring access to justice and protecting vulnerable victims.
“The Fees Order will be made after and subject to an approval motion in the House of Commons.” It will come into force 21 days after the order is made.”
How the UK Stands to Lose a Collective Body of Knowledge
Generations of hands-on probate officials have developed a culture that works. Much of this was passed on through mentoring, and has helped bereaved people work through the process.
Last year the Judiciary hinted at the possibility of 6,500 jobs being lost according to the Law Society Gazette. Losing this body of knowledge will be irreversible.
The Judiciary will need some highly trained bots if it wishes to continue its proud tradition of citizens and service first.