Legal Services Board Recommendations Concerning Fixed Fee Probate
The Legal Services Board has made proposals for stricter regulations for companies offering probate services. This has stemmed from growing concerns about probate fees- specifically excessive costs and deficient information regarding fees and unclear pricing and over-pricing. In contrast to fixed fee probate services (such as those offered by IWC Ltd.), consumers are being forced into paying extortionate hourly rates and snowballing charges.
They are also subjected to percentage fees based on estate value – which have little relevance to the amount of work that must be done. Leading high street banks have been heavily criticised for this – a well-publicised report by the Office of Fair Trading in 2010 exposed massive differences in fees. They approached 4 leading banks and reported “For an average estate, consumers can pay between £3,000 and £9,000;” that’s £6,000 difference for the same service.
Another concern is fraud and theft from estates – “Regulating the probate application alone… seems to target regulation at the wrong place.” They state that the tight focus on the probate application leads to considerable scope for fraud in the other aspects of the estate administration process.
In a recent post – we cited a shocking case where Leanne Harris of Arscotts Solicitors in Hove stole almost £500,000 from probate clients. It is reported this was to maintain a lifestyle many of us can only dream of. She took advantage of one client, for whom she had been given power of attorney, to the sum of £65,000. Harris had no formal legal training.
The LSB propose that will writing and probate services should become reserved activities. In other words they should be regulated. “Action is needed to protect consumers of will-writing, probate activities and estate administration services and to promote their interests.”
At present, if you want to protect yourself, it is recommended to choose a fixed fee probate service by a company that is regulated by STEP (The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners). STEP is a worldwide professional body for the trust and estate profession.
If the LSB’s suggestions come into effect – they will enlist approved regulators. This would mean a criminal conviction for any unauthorised provider charging for probate or ancillary services. Solicitors will not be immune either; they too will have to demonstrate that they have the appropriate expertise to handle will writing and probate matters.
You can read the full LSB report here-
For further reading check out the following posts –