Law Society warns against extending probate rights to legal executives

The Law Society has warned that any move allowing legal executives the right to make grants of probate could give ‘false comfort’ to consumers.

The comments come in response to the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) recent   application to the Legal Services Board for the right to authorise individuals to conduct reserved probate work.  

Will-writers and legal executives could be given the right to make grants of probate within the next six months.

The application also seeks to allow ILEX to grant probate rights to non-ILEX members, such as will-writers, who pass its set criteria for qualification.

The Legal Services Board is expected to finalise it’s decision within six months, and it could take up to a further three months for the lord chancellor to give his endorsement.

If successful ILEX could authorise its members, many of whom currently carry probate work, to perform the grant of probate, which is currently restricted to probate solicitors, licensed conveyancers, and some accountants in limited situations.

The chief executive of ILEX’s regulatory arm, Ian Watson, has said that applicants will need to have passed an exam at honours degree level in probate and succession, and show knowledge of equity and trusts.

If they want to exercise the new probate rights in their own practice rather than at a law firm, they will also need to pass accounts and practice management qualifications.

An ILEX paper on the new powers being sought said that ‘the work undertaken by most experienced legal executives is indistinguishable from that undertaken by a solicitor’.

Linda Lee  the Law Society president outlined her concerns stating: ‘Protecting the public interest is of paramount importance when considering any regulatory change. We believe that ILEX members should only be granted the rights to carry out the proposed activities if they were able to demonstrate that they meet the same high standards as Conveyancing Solicitors’.