Professionals 2019 Hot Topic Predictions for Wills and Probate

2019 is underway and is set to be a very busy year due to the uncertainties surrounding Brexit and the impact it will have on the industry as a whole. But what will be the main topics of conversations this year?

Before 2018 came to an end, Today’s Wills and Probate predicted what might be key topics in 2019 in the changing Wills and Probate sector which included probate fees, cyber crime, rise of Will making and more.

Industry professionals gave their views on what they think will be hot topics this coming year in the industry and what challenges and/or opportunities we might face in the market.

Michael Culver, Director at Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) commented. He said:

“It’s disappointing that the Government is pushing forward their plans to increase probate fees. It’s a stealth tax that could see bereaved families paying up to £6,000 to process probate from April. Whilst it’s good to see that SFE’s campaign against the 2017 probate hike has resulted in a 75% fee drop, the revised system still requires executors to find large sums upfront to pay for obtaining of the grant, and difficulties could arise if there is no immediate access to funds in the estate.

“It’s also possible that we’ll see an increase in applications from clients, who previously have had no urgency to obtain a grant of probate. SFE is concerned that the new fees will put pressure on vulnerable clients to gift away their assets or enter risky schemes to avoid the need to obtain a grant of representation. Both scenarios could cause the client to lose control over their money and assets, which would be detrimental, particularly if they need to rely on these funds for care in later life.

“With the much-anticipated social care Green Paper still delayed, conversations around the need for a sustainable long-term funding strategy are likely to continue. It’s clear that the current system for adult social care has failed and our main concern is whether the Paper will go far enough to tackle the crisis. The Government must ensure that quality care is affordable and accessible to everyone.”

Furthermore, founder of Legacy Giving Expert, Chris Millward, gives his thoughts on the coming year. He said:

“Susan Acland-Hood, CEO of the Courts and Tribunal Service has written an open letter to charities to announce that the current arrangement with Smee and Ford to provide the paid for legacy notification service to UK charities will cease on 31 July 2019 – as it is no longer consistent with its legal duties. However, going forward, continuity of service is to be prioritised and the Wills and probate sector to be involved in shaping the long-term solution.

“Non-contentious Probate (Fees) Order 2018 went before the House of Commons ‘Delegated Legislation Committee’ on 7th February.  Despite strong opposition from charities and lawyers the proposed changes were approved.  The proposal is to abolish the current £215 flat-rate probate fee and replace it with fee bands, in which estates valued at less than £50,000 would be exempt from fees and estates worth more than £50,000 will pay between £250 and £6,000.  Experts have deemed the changes a ‘stealth tax on death’ and have warned this could cost charities £10m a year in lost legacy income.

“The Timetable for Law Commission review of Wills Act has been delayed.  This is disappointing news given that the current legislation is 180 years old and the world has changed beyond recognition in that time.  Legacy professionals were particularly concerned at the Law Commissions’ decision to defer any discussion regarding the impact of technology.  ‘Digital assets, the increasing role of technology in the drafting, execution, and storage of Wills and the rising number of unregulated providers were also issues which the sector urged the Law Commission to give more timely consideration too.

“HMCTS roll out of online probate service as part of £1b programme of court reform following initial Beta test phase – allowing up to four joint applicants to apply, pay and swear a statement of truth online.  Claims that ‘for most people, a visit to a probate registry or solicitor’s office is no longer needed’ have caused concern amongst solicitors and charities. Concern has been raised in relation to ‘the complexities in the law relating to charitable estates that any layperson may not reasonably be expected to know’, and the specific administrative requirements placed upon them by auditors.  The sector will be watching developments with interest.”

As a Will writer, what predictions would you make for this year?

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