Co-op Legal Services has urged the British Government to regulate Probate and Estate Administration providers – an industry which handles assets worth over £65 billion* each year.
It follows an investigation by the Legal Services Board (LSB)** which highlighted concerns about fraud, unethical sales practices and the safekeeping of consumers‘ money and other assets, plus a failure to deliver effective redress to people when things go wrong.
However, in a recommendation to the Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, The LSB has called for regulation regarding will writing but has excluded estate administration on the basis that it is a “criminal rather than regulatory issue.”
Co-op Legal Services has urged a rethink, arguing that a list of approved Probare providers and regulatory standards would give confidence to consumers.
The Director of Policy at Co-op Legal Services said, "Consumers need better protection against unregulated firms offering probate services. The average estate is worth £250,000*** and some unscrupulous providers are able to take advantage of people at a time of distress when dealing with financial affairs."
"Few consumers will know that many Probate providers are unregulated, unlike Solicitors or law firms. Although they can seek redress through the courts, the damage is done. Regulation would provide greater peace of mind."
"We welcome the recommendation to regulate Will writing but don’t feel it goes far enough to protect the interests of consumers and are calling on the Government to introduce a regulatory framework which includes Probate and Estate Administration providers.”
*Based on the gross capital value of 264,750 estates notified for Probate in 2009/10 http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/statistics/inheritance.htm#2
*** In 2009/10 the average value of an estate undergoing Probate was £246,152.