Changes to probate charges could hit charities hard

Changes to probate fees could cost four charities more than £1.5 million a year, Third Sector has found.

The publication which covers non-profit news estimates the costs based on figures provided to Third Sector from the RNLI, the RSPCA, Macmillan Cancer Support and Cancer Research UK—the UK’s top legacy-receiving charities.

The proposed changes to probate fees which will see larger estates charged more for receiving a grant of probate and a move that has been called a “stealth death tax” by critics because it will be used to fund other parts of the courts and tribunals system.

Only applicable to estates of £50,000 plus

The existing flat rate is £215. The Ministry of Justice argues that many estates will no longer need to pay anything as the charges will apply only to estates of more than £50,000.

The RNLI estimates changes to probate fees will cost it £400,000 a year. The RSPCA guesses the figure to be  £250,000 and Macmillan £300,000


Cancer Research UK has already said it expects the reforms to cost them some £600,000 annually. The British Heart Foundation is the other charity in the top five legacy receiving non-profits, but it could not provide a figure to Third Sector.

The Institute of Legacy Management warns that the changes could cost charities £10m in legacy donations every year. But the introduction of the fees has been delayed because of the amount of time that has been taken up by Brexit discussions.

Nurses wages

Craig Fordham, director of legacies at Macmillan, told Third Sector the loss of £300,000 to their annual income was significant because it could pay to employ five Macmillan nurses every year. Macmillan nurses help those diagnosed with cancer to live their lives as fully as possible.

He added the organisation was funded almost entirely by “generous donations” and that they could not support the growing numbers of people they need to help without such donations.

An RSPCA spokeswoman said losing £250,000 as a result of the introduction of the probate fees would be disappointing for the charity. Its work to help and protect animals relied on generous donations left in wills of animal lovers.


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