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Survey reveals insights into the probate process

Last year, YouGov carried out an online survey of 2001 UK citizens that had used probate and estate administration services.  The results were published in March by the Legal Services Board.  This gave valuable insight into why people use professional probate practitioners and their experiences.  Here’s a summary of their findings.

Just over half of people used paid services at some point in the probate process.

The higher the value of the estate, the more likely those surveyed were to use a professional.  75% of those with estates valued at over £650,000 paid for probate services.

The most popular reasons for using paid services were: the extra reassurance 49%, the process was unfamiliar 35%, felt unsure 33%, going through a stressful time 28%, confusion at legal jargon 16%, used a professional service previously 14%.

Of those who commissioned a service part way through the process – 42% said it was more complicated than they envisaged, 26% said they felt the risks were too high to make a mistake, 20% said their circumstances had changed, 19% said it was taking too long, 18% said they were under pressure from beneficiaries.

The most common complicating factors respondents’ experienced included inheritance tax, family trusts, beneficiaries under 18, contested wills, agricultural property, businesses and foreign property ownership.

Those who found a fixed fee probate service paid an average of £600 less than those who used service providers charging an hourly rate.

Those who agreed to a combination of a fixed price and an hourly amount were charged the most –more than double the average fixed price for probate.

Surprisingly, it was found that people don’t tend to shop around – only 11% said they had compared prices.  50% chose the service provider because they or another family member had used the company before.

Other reasons they chose a particular probate service included because they were:  local 42%, members of a professional body 26%, specialist 21%, regulated 13%, value for money 12%.

84% said they assumed the service provider they used was regulated.  However, when questioned in interviews, most struggled to name a regulatory body, some mentioned the Law Society and Legal Ombudsman but were generally unaware of organisations like The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP).

50% of those who decided to handle probate without professional help said they found the process easy.  38% neither easy nor difficult and 11% said they found it difficult.  Although, earlier in the survey it was found that those with more complicated cases were more likely to use a professional.

Read the full survey on the LSB website

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