Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. M.C. Parnell:
That regulations under the Supreme Court Act 1935 in relation to probate fees, made on 4 February 2016 and laid on the table of this council on 9 February 2016, be disallowed.
(Continued from 24 February 2016)
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY ( 17:14 :33 ): I rise in support of this motion. At a recent Legislative Review Committee meeting, the Courts Administration Authority was asked about these changes to the probate fees.
Representatives indicated that the current fees amounted to approximately $6 million per annum, that these already more than cover the cost of administering probate and that they were already providing revenue to Treasury. Further to this, we were advised that these changes in the fees were not made at their request and were, in fact, an idea put forward by Treasury.
The method by which the new fees are calculated is flawed, as it uses the gross value of the estate rather than the net value. This could mean that the estate of a person living in a property that is worth $1 million will pay probate fees based on $1 million even though the mortgage for the property could still be $900,000. The actual net value in this case would be $100,000; however, fees would be paid on $1 million. This is wrong. In addition, there would be additional costs incurred due to the fact that solicitors lodging applications for probate will need to have certified valuations of all the assets.
There seems to be no justification for changing the fees, especially given the flawed methodology which is used to calculate them. It looks like it is just another greedy money grab by the government that is looking every which way to find more revenue. This is a sneaky way to boost the Treasury coffers, and it is hitting people when they are mourning the death of a loved one. I support the Hon. Mark Parnell's motion of disallowance.