With increased probate fees on the horizon; the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) requiring the law firms they regulate to publish prices online; and the unclear impact of Brexit around the corner, 2019 is already set to be a busy year for the Wills and probate industry. Therefore, in order to kick-start the year, we’re taking a look at the legal news stories that we predict to hit the headlines in 2019.
Probate fees are due to increase
The introduction of a banded structure of fees for obtaining a Grant of Probate is back on the government’s agenda again. The proposed changes would mean that fees would be based on the value of the estate, rather than the current fixed cost of £215 for individuals or £155 for legal professionals. This would result in costs ranging from £250 for estates worth £50,000-£300,000 up to £6,000 for estates worth more than £2 million.
However, the current proposal has been largely criticised by many people including members of the House of Lords. Lord Marks of Henley on Thames said: “That this House declines to approve the draft Order, because it would be an abuse of the fee-levying power, since the proposed increased fees substantially exceed the cost involved in making grants of probate and would amount to a tax, which should only be introduced, if at all, by primary legislation.” Despite the criticism, the government are still able to go ahead as planned. However, will the pressure force them to change or halt the proposed probate fee restructure in 2019?
Brexit – will it impact the Wills and probate sector?
Many questions arise when it comes to the impact of Brexit on the industry, including:
• Will it create cross-border tax issues?
• How will it affect British expatriates?
• Will there be any impact on the types of assets owned?
The answers are currently unclear due to all of the uncertainty currently surrounding Brexit. Although we can’t make too many predictions about what could happen as a result of the UK leaving the EU, we can certainly expect the industry to make changes in order to adapt to offering legal services in the post-EU UK.
Additionally, there is much concern about the risk of a skills shortage within the legal sector, especially in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Legal and Constitutional Affairs carried out an inquiry into the effect of Brexit on the legal services sector. The report states that: “The legal services sector has profited from the ability to attract talent from across the globe, and the right to work in the European Union. It is very important that post-Brexit, a labour mobility framework which guarantees these abilities is put in place.”
Furthermore, the SRA launched a public consultation in December 2018 in relation to how non-UK solicitors will qualify in England and Wales in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Currently, all foreign qualified lawyers must sit the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) in order to qualify in England and Wales. However, EU lawyers are able to apply for exemptions from the QLTS which may not be possible post-Brexit. Therefore, the SRA’s consultation “seeks views on addressing this issue by offering the right to apply for QLTS exemptions to all foreign-qualified lawyers, regardless of the country they come from.”
With the UK due to leave the EU on the 29th March 2019, time is running out so hopefully it won’t be long until we have a clearer picture of the outcome.
More legal professionals are adding prices to their websites
As of 6th December 2018, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) requires the firms they regulate, in areas such as probate and conveyancing, to publish price and service information online. The price information “must be presented in a clear and easy to understand format.” Additionally, the rules state that they must provide a total cost where possible, highlight any potential disbursement costs, state whether VAT is included, and explain the basis of the charges (e.g. hourly rate, fixed fee).
The service information must explain what services are included in the quoted price, highlight any services not included within the price, include typical timescales, share information on key stages and state the experience and qualifications of anyone carrying out the work (and their supervisors).
Due to the new rules set out by the SRA, more legal professionals should have already added prices to their websites, resulting in consumers having a clearer view of pricing for legal services from 2019. We even predict that some legal professionals who are not regulated by the SRA could start to advertise price information online, in order to keep up with the new-transparent nature of the industry.
The increase of migration and blended families
The increase of both migration and blended families have made tracing missing people even more challenging. As adoption grows and more fluid relationships resulting in blended families become more common, we expect to increasingly see this impact estate administration. When someone who has died is part of a blended family, it can make the administration of the estate more complicated, especially in cases of intestacy. More family members are likely to contest the Will or make a claim against the estate and it can be challenging to administer foreign shares or funds.
The Tile Research blog endeavours to keep you up-to-date with the biggest news stories in the legal industry.