The number of applications for grant of probate by personal applicants has risen for the third year running, raising questions about the impact of new entrants to the market, according to new figures.
The Probate Service statistics, obtained by probate technology provider The Law Wizard, show a record 96,594 applications for grants of representation from private individuals in 2013, up from 92,855 in 2012. Since 2007, personal applications have risen by 13%.
However, the rise has not led to a corresponding fall in applications from solicitors. Though down 30% since 2006, the number of professional applicants has remained relatively static since 2010. In 2013, there were 159,198 applications by solicitors and other professionals, almost identical to 2012.
The comfort private individuals feel in dealing with the probate process themselves was demonstrated by Legal Services Board research in 2012, which found that 46% of people facing the situation had handled the probate and estate personally, while nearly half of the 36% who paid for assistance sought help with only some of the process, doing the rest themselves. Most of those who took the DIY route said they would do so again if required.
Solicitor Tom Hiskey, co-founder of The Law Wizard, suggested that the lack of movement in solicitor applications, and rise in personal applicants, challenged the idea that new probate brands are resulting in greater market share for professionals.
“With the emergence of new brands and fiercer competition in the probate market, we might have expected a rise in professional applications,” he said. “In fact, we see professionals losing yet more ground to the ‘DIY-ers’, a trend that has continued on-and-off since 2006.”
Mr Hiskey said the trend could change over the coming years if solicitors begin to better tackle the opportunity of the DIY market and household names continue to enter the sector.
“The statistics suggest more consumers have the ability, knowledge and confidence to make personal applications for probate than ever before. The challenge for professionals is to up their and offer quick, cost-effective solutions for lower-end estates”.
A grant of representation is required after around half of the 500,000 deaths that occur each year in England and Wales.