A recent article published in The Telegraph caught our eye the other day, as it discussed the recently announced changes to probate law – changes meaning that accountants are now able to offer probate services as of this month. This means that the cost of managing someone's estate is expected to fall sharply in the coming weeks, as more and more accountants become able to offer the service to the public at a cheaper cost than solicitors.
Previously, probate services were only offered by solicitors who typically charge a percentage of the value of the estate; this can reach as high at 5% on top of an hourly fee in some extreme cases. However, as of this month, accountants are able to apply to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) for a license allowing them to offer probate services.
The difference between costs will be significant, with accountants unlikely to charge a percentage of the estate but instead opt for either a flat hourly fee or fixed sum. Any contested wills, however, will still need to be handled by a solicitor.
Research from comparison website CompareLegalCosts.co.uk found that the public are starting to demand fixed-fee costs for probate services, with founder Michael Welsh noting that the legal industry has already begun to shift toward this model – the latest powers granted to accountants being proof of that.
Welsh also noted that "accountants are more equipped to offer fixed costs" – this is because "they use pricing models that allow them to calculate exactly how much a certain job will cost them and what to charge for it", which, he argues, is exactly what the public are looking for.
Do you think offering fixed-price probate services from accountants will help or hinder the industry?