Pensions  

Probate fees to fall

Increased competition in the probate market can help advisers cut down the total of £870m a year spent by their clients on settling estates following deaths, Ronnie Wayte of Golden Charter has said.

The chief executive of the Glasgow-based probate plan provider said: “Increased competition in the probate market is very welcome, and the pressure on fees will ease the financial burden on relatives and executors at what is already a very stressful time.”

According to analysis from the firm, approximately half of all executors and families use probate and legal services, with average bills of around £3,000, equating to £870m a year.

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However, new rules came into effect on 3 November allowing chartered legal executives, and others including accountants, to offer probate and conveyancing without the supervision of solicitors.

According to Mr Wayte, the change will increase competition and lead to lower charges.

“It is also important that estates are handled professionally, and solicitors are well-placed to ensure that wills are settled properly and delays kept to a minimum,” he said.

Research for the Legal Services Board revealed that up to 54 per cent of executors and families handling wills use professional services, with around half doing it themselves.

Earlier this year, research by Skandia International, part of Old Mutual Wealth, revealed that 60 per cent of advisers’ clients hold a will.

Adviser view

Stephen Oliver, director of the Northampton-based The Will Company, said that advisers should “start with the end in mind”, as they are the ones that will be called by a family when a death occurs.

However, the idea of leaving a client without a will was tantamount to negligence, he said, adding: “It is not enough these days to just say, ‘I told your dad so in his reason why letter.’ The consequences of not doing so – delays, lack of control over assets and costs, to name but a few – need to highlighted too.”

Background

From 3 November, chartered legal executives and others with appropriate expertise have been able to offer probate and conveyancing services without the supervision of solicitors. Executives must show that they are competent to practice in conveyancing or probate.

They must get authorisation from Ilex Professional Standards, the independent regulator of members of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. They are then able to call themselves CIlex conveyancing practitioners, or CIlex probate practitioners.