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pre-paid Probate Plans - buyer beware

View profile for Belinda-Jane Poulter
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There are issues with some companies who offered pre-paid Funeral Plans and indeed one company, ‘SureHands’, has collapsed with many people not knowing whether they will have their money returned.

The same looks now to be happening with Probate Plans.  Probate is a legal authority needed to manage someone’s estate.  However, not everyone will need this on their death and some estates can be managed without ever needing Probate.

If you do need Probate to manage an estate, you can apply yourself with the new online Probate portal or engage a solicitor to do this for you.  What you pay for this service, comes out of the estate of the deceased.

These plans are being sold on the basis that you will pay at “today’s prices” thus protecting your estate from rising costs in the future and also that you will remove one of the administrative burdens from your grieving family but the firm you take the plan out with handling much of the administration work.   However, there may not be a need for Probate and there may be very little work required by the Executors of an estate.

Currently this market is unregulated meaning that people who purchase a Probate Plan may be left thousands of pounds out of pocket if that firm does not protect the funds adequately and subsequently cease trading and do not have enough money to refund people.  The Plans also do not make clear what extra charges may be involved with the work.  People are simply paying money for a service that they simply won’t need.

Companies such as these are holding a person’s Will and the monies paid over to settle the Probate.  There are stories of Wills going missing and of Wills being passed from company to company; stores of Probate taking over 2 years and still no conclusion.  Offices being closed without telling the customers.

These companies also trade on the fear that solicitors are expensive.  Solicitors now have to publish their probate fees on their websites.  They are quoted as charging an average fee of 2% of the estate which, in many cases, are not true.  Many solicitors offer a range of bespoke pricing, tailored to the actual needs of their clients and the size of the estate.

Probate Plan firms exist to prey on the anxieties of elderly clients, who are worried about who will deal with their estate on their death and want to take the burden off their loved ones. They do not take account of the complexities or otherwise of an estate and can cause more distress and upset when a family is already grieving.

Whilst the Government has now asked the FCA to take over regulation of pre-paid funeral plan providers, no such requirement exists for pre-paid Probate Plans.  So buyer beware!

Our specialist legal advisors in our Private Client team can provide legal advice on probate and estate administration.

Contact a member of the team at one of our offices in North Yorkshire - York, Selby, Malton or Pickering.