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MoJ forced to drop probate plans

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The Government has confirmed there will be no time to implement changes to probate fees before the upcoming General Election.

Parliament is being dissolved in less than a week’s time, which has left the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) with no choice but to abandon its current timetable.

A spokesman for the department said: The relevant statutory instrument will now not have time to go through the parliamentary process before the election.”

Under the changes, which were originally expected to take effect next month, fees would increase to £20,000 for the largest estates in England and Wales.

It will be for the next government to decide whether to continue with the policy and while opinion polls suggest that Theresa May’s party will be re-elected with a significantly increased majority, critics of the changes hope the proposals may be abandoned regardless.

Political sources quoted in The Guardian have suggested that the move from a flat rate to a sliding scale of fees could well be dropped, such is the extent of opposition.

While a u-turn may require the MoJ to find the estimated £300million revenue elsewhere, the weight of opinion against what critics have branded a “death tax” may yet force the hand of the Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Liz Truss.

Shadow Justice Minister Yasmin Quireshi welcomed the news, reiterating that the reforms would have seen fees increase “enormously” for many estates.

“We need probate fees that are clear and fair, and that do not treat grieving families as cash cows for the Government,” she said.

Lakshmi Turner, of Solicitors for the Elderly, said: “It was very clear from the offset that the new system was nothing more than a back-door tax and the Government had abused its powers in pushing them through under the guise of a fee.

“To call the new system ‘proportionate’ was ridiculous when you consider that some larger estates were set to see a 13,000 per cent increase.”