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Co-operative Calls For Probate Regulation

LONDON, February 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

The Co-operative Legal Services has urged the Government to regulate probate and estates administration providers - an industry which handles assets worth over £65 billion* each year.

It follows an investigation by the Legal Services Board** which highlighted concerns about fraud, unethical sales practices and the safekeeping of consumers' money and other assets, plus a failure to deliver effective redress to people when things go wrong.

However, in a recommendation to the Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, The Legal Services Board has called for regulation regarding will writing but has excluded estate administration on the basis that it is a "criminal rather than regulatory issue."

The Co-operative Legal Services, which is one of the biggest consumer law businesses, has urged a rethink, arguing that a list of approved providers and regulatory standards would give confidence to consumers.

Christina Blacklaws, Director of Policy, The Co-operative Legal Services, said: "Consumers need better protection against unregulated firms offering probate services. The average estate is worth £250,000*** and some unscrupulous providers are able to take advantage of people at a time of distress when dealing with financial affairs.

"Few consumers will know that many probate providers are unregulated, unlike solicitors or law firms. Although they can seek redress through the courts, the damage is done. Regulation would provider greater peace of mind.

"We welcome the recommendation to regulate will writing but don't feel it goes far enough to protect the interests of consumers and are calling on the Government to introduce a regulatory framework which includes probate and estate administration providers."

Notes to editors:

* Based on the gross capital value of 264,750 estates notified for probate in 2009/10 http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/statistics/inheritance.htm#2

** http://www.legalservicesboard.org.uk/what_we_do/consultations/open/pdf/1.pdf

*** In 2009/10 the average value of an estate undergoing probate was £246,152.

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