Exclusive: leading non-solicitor probate provider becomes ABS

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By Legal Futures

13 August 2012


Curran: long-standing goal to become ABS

One of the country’s leading non-solicitor probate providers will today be unveiled as the newest alternative business structure (ABS).

Kings Court Trust has chosen to be regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), making it the third ABS licensed by the CLC; the Solicitors Regulation Authority has so far licensed 16.

Founded in 2002, Kings Court Trust is authorised to conduct probate business under the Trustee Act 1925. Amongst its 65 employees are solicitors, specialist tax accountants and case managers. It specialises in fixed-fee estate administration and out-of-hours probate advice through home visits and a free advice line.

Chief executive Tom Curran told Legal Futures that the move was a “natural transition”. The likelihood of estate administration becoming a reserved legal activity was one of the reasons to become an ABS – “it’s a new regulatory environment and we want to be part of it”. The decision was also influenced by the fact that “consumers believe that all legal services providers are regulated – it’s a shock to them to find out that certain services aren’t”.

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He continued: “It has been our long-standing goal to be regulated under the new ABS regime and our customers will now benefit from having access to the Legal Ombudsman and a compensation fund.”

Mr Curran said he chose to go with the CLC – which can regulate conveyancing and probate work – as Kings Court intends to continue to specialise in probate and estate administration, although he did not rule out expanding into other areas in the longer term. “As a smaller and more focused licensing body, it was easier to establish a relationship,” he said, adding that he was impressed with the CLC’s “stringent approach” to the application.

“We’re not a law firm. We see ourselves as a business that happens to offer legal services. The Solicitors Regulation Authority comes from the solicitors’ world and we’re not a firm of solicitors.”

The probate and estate administration marketed is hugely fragmented – Mr Curran said the top five providers, of which Kings Court is one, do not have 10% of it between them – and he predicted that it will attract interest from new entrants. This would provide an opportunity for Kings Court to offer a white-label service: “At some point, some consumer brand names will want to look after their customers at certain key life stages and therefore they will want to have relationships with organisations like ours.”

June Mulroy, interim chief executive of the CLC said: “The robust and rigorous application process was successfully passed by Kings Court Trust and the CLC has been reassured that this newly regulated company will maintain the high standards expected of its licensees.”

 

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