Falling probate fees set to make probate more accessible

“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.” – Words from the chief executive of a Glasgow-based plan provider. Due to this increased competition, prices in the probate market are likely to fall. This will help advisers whittle down the large total of £870m spent per year by probate solicitors’ clients on resolving the delegation of the recently deceased’s estates.

The increase in competition is directly linked to the fact that on November 3rd new legislation came into effect allowing chartered legal executives to offer probate assistance. Probate lawyers will now have outside competition for their services, and probate fees are likely to fall. Lower prices may invite the 46% of families that don’t currently use professional services now to use them. Despite the fact that chartered accountants can now offer similar services to probate lawyers like Thomson Snell and Passmore from Kent and Dartford, they still have to reach a professional standard in order to be able to offer probate and conveyancing services. This is done by receiving authorisation from Ilex Professional Standards, to demonstrate that they are knowledgeable enough to practice in probate without the supervision of solicitors.

Analysis of the costs of probate lawyers settling disputes, done by the Glasgow-based company, have suggested that the average bills of probate and legal services for families and executors that use them comes to £3,000, generating total fees of £870m per year. Fees in probate are charged in a number of different ways, which is why they vary extensively. For example, certain companies such as banks may charge a percentage of the estate’s value; this is usually around 4% or 5% which can work out expensive compared to the likes of probate solicitors fees. Probate lawyers’ fees are most likely to be constructed around standards set by the Law Society, usually around 0.75% of the value of the estate as an initial fee, plus around 1.5% of the value of other assets being dealt with such as accessories etc. Will-writers are often the cheapest option available due to the undercutting of prices to attract business.

The benefits that are offered by a fall in probate fees are stark. Families and executioners that would otherwise be priced out of the probate law market will now find it more financially accessible, meaning an increased number of probate lawyers will be in demand at a lower average price.

To find out more on probate and estate planning, visit the legal news website Solicitors Journal.