Solicitors halt slide in probate work and "should now target DIY applicants"


Probate: most applications come from private individuals

The number of solicitor applications for a grant of probate has steadied after four years of decline and the profession should now target helping those who do it themselves, it was claimed yesterday.

Statistics released by the Probate Service to people tracing firm and probate specialists Title Research also reveal that around 5% of wills failed to appoint an executor or the executor was unable or unwilling to administer the estate.

The figures show that solicitor applications for a grant in England and Wales in 2011 increased marginally, having dropped 30% between 2006 and 2010. But they only represent 44% of all grants of probate.

The comfort private individuals feel in dealing with the probate process themselves was demonstrated by a recent Legal Services Board (LSB) survey, 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.

Last month the LSB announced its intention to in addition to the existing probate reservation.

Kevin Cole, head of research at Title Research, said: “The LSB’s plans to regulate estate administration will not affect the vast majority of people who don’t use a probate service provider to administer an estate. The risks of mistakes will remain with complex DIY probate such as undervaluing the estate, under-paying tax or missing out entitled heirs.

“Lawyers have succeeded in halting the decline in probates handled by them. The opportunity for lawyers now lies with making inroads into DIY probates.”

Some 15,503 wills failed to appoint an executor or the executor was unable or unwilling to administer the estate, which Mr Cole said highlighted the need for will-writing to be regulated.

The Probate Service figures also revealed that 19% of probates involved estates where the deceased did not leave a will, a fall from 23% in 2010.

 

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