The sad truth about probate fees
It’s contemptible that when people are at their most vulnerable, unscrupulous probate providers are cashing in. Here are some of the disturbing practices that occur within the industry, highlighting why it’s important to choose carefully.
- Practitioners refuse to quote fixed probate fees
- Extra charges are buried in the small print
- Grieving relatives are subjected to hard-sell tactics
- Banks charging up to 4.5% of the estate value
- Families are prevented from shopping around for better deals
- Unregulated firms give out poor or misleading advice
The probate services market is estimated to be worth around £1.25 billion. Unfortunately, where there’s big business, there are mercenary practices. The most disturbing is something known as ‘baiting.’ This is where will writers offer their services as a loss leader while insisting they are named sole or joint executor of a will. When a death occurs, bereaved families feel obliged to use the services of the company and are charged extortionate fees for probate.
Consumer groups have reported cases of the point blank refusal of unwanted executors to renounce their position. This is despite the fact that it is a straightforward process for someone to stand-down. However, they can then only be removed if the relatives make an application to the High Court.
A 2010 article titled, Exposed Banks that Prey on the Bereaved published by the Daily Mail, tells the story of John and Judy Berryman. A high street bank tried to charge more than £25,000 for probate services after appointing itself as executor when the will was made.
The much welcomed changes proposed by the Legal Services Board for stricter regulation of the industry cannot come soon enough.
To protect yourself
- Anyone with an existing will should pay close attention to executor clauses. Check who is named and find out their charges.
- Obtain at least 3 quotes.
- Get a fixed fee for probate.
- Read the small print and make sure there are no hidden extras.
- Choose a company that’s regulated by the Society of Will Writers and Estate Planning Practitioners.
- If you’ve found yourself with an unwanted executor, we can let you know where you stand, call us for free advice on 0800 612 6105.