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Solicitors ahead in probate battle with banks

17 November 2010

Just under half of people who have used legal advisers to obtain probate have used a solicitor, recent research seen by Solicitors Journal has revealed, with only three per cent seeking legal assistance from banks.

The cost of using professional services to wind up the estate of the deceased has only decreased by £10 compared with last year but has not changed significantly over the past four years.

At £2,199, however, legal expenses still represent about 30 per cent of the cost of dying in the UK, which is £6,801 on average, according to ‘The Ultimate Distress Purchase’, AXA’s annual survey into the cost of dying.

Costs remain largely driven by the value of the estate and are typically determined by time spent, or a percentage of the estate, or a combination of both. But the decrease in average professional costs took place while house prices were still rising, suggesting that consumers have been shopping around in search of better deals.

The survey also shows a shift in the type of provider chosen, with greater willingness on the part of consumers to administer the estate themselves. According to the survey, 98 per cent of those who went down this route were satisfied with the outcome. Banks have been gaining market shares in the past few years at the expense of high street solicitors, but this year’s research indicates that only three per cent of clients instructing professionals turned to banks – possibly as a result of the sharp drop in confidence in the banking sector in the wake of the financial crisis.

The YouGov/Mintel-conducted survey, which canvassed 1,514 clients, also reveals that 79 per cent of the deceased had made a will, a figure much higher than average, but that there is a marked class divide, with wealthier individuals much more likely to have planned in this way.

And more far-reaching changes are likely to take place in the run up to the Legal Services Act and the arrival of alternative business structures, the survey warns.

“These organisations are likely to invest in infrastructure, technology and marketing which will catalyse a commercialisation and commoditisation of legal services in a way that the vast majority of current industry players have so far failed to do,” it says.

“This should increase competition within the legal services market which may improve access to services such as will writing and potentially reduce costs.”

The survey also expects the emergence of alternative providers in the probate sector to revolutionise the market.

Categorised in:

Procedures Police & Prisons Wills, Trusts & Probate