A time of change in the world of probate

Guest blog from one of the recognised bodies of the Professional Paralegal Register, The Association of Probate Researchers (APR) on the proposed changes within the probate sector.

These are interesting times for the probate sector, with the government looking to push through its much-publicised fee changes while at the same time introducing a new online application process that has been dogged by controversy virtually from the day it was first mooted.

Proposed reforms will bring an end to the current flat rate of probate fees of £215 (£155 if estates are settled through a solicitor) and the implementation of a six-band sliding scale.

The new system will see people whose estates are valued at between £50,000 and £300,000 pay £250, with fees rising to £750 for estates valued between £300,000 and £500,000, and £2,500 for those worth between £500,000 and £1m. A maximum fee of £6,000 will be levied on those with estates worth more than £2m.

Fees will be capped at no more than 0.5 per cent of the value of an estate and the government suggests that around 80% of estates will pay no more than £750. In addition, the threshold below which no fees are payable will rise from £5,000 to £50,000.

The Ministry of Justice has stressed that additional funds raised will be spent on the courts and tribunal service.

In a written statement it noted: ‘The new banded fee model represents a fair and more progressive way to pay for probate services compared to the current flat fee.’

However, many in the media have not agreed with this assessment and the proposals have come in for considerable criticism, especially as they coincide with the introduction of a controversial online application process.

Rolled out by Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) in 2017 as part of a £1 billion reform programme, the latter’s stated aim is to make probate simpler and more convenient, remove the need for people to attend a probate registry and swear an oath in person, and make the justice system easier to navigate for all.

Government sources say that take up of the new system has been relatively rapid and point to advantages of security and ease of use.

Under the proposals, “bulk scanning and printing services” will replace work that has traditionally been carried out by people – in this case civil servants – who check whether wills are original before issuing probate.

The Public and Commercial Services Union, some of whose members are now facing an uncertain future, has however reacted with alarm at the plan.

“Thousands of years of experience are being lost,” a union spokesperson commented in March, “We are concerned that the current model of probate is having to change to fit HMCTS proposals for a paperless system, a system that they have not consulted upon, our members maintain is not fit for purpose and threatens the integrity of the grant.”

Neil Fraser, partner at genealogists and international probate researchers Fraser and Fraser, said: “In principle, automating the system makes sense and will make the process simpler for many people. However, it’s important there is a system of checks in place that allows individual cases to be scrutinised.”

“The digitisation process should be extended to cover the entire probate period, with estate accounts being required to be filed at the end of the process.

“Complex estates by their very nature can be challenging to administer and we would strongly advise these are dealt with by a professional. Many members of the public will be unaware that if they make mistakes they could be at risk of facing prosecution for fraud.”

 

Recognised Body of the Professional Paralegal Register: The Association of Probate Researchers

The Association of Probate Researchers
In the context of the current changes faced by the sector, the Association of Probate Researchers (APR) has an important role to play.

The organisation brings regulation to the professional probate research industry, guards against the fraudulent or misguided and ensures beneficiaries receive the best advice at a time of changing realities and regulations.

For more information about the organisation’s activities visit www.a-p-r.org

Celebrating the Successes of Finalists!

Finalists of the first National Paralegal Awards, and industry leaders and supporters, will be coming together on Friday 29 March for the inaugural awards event, which is being held in the The May Fair Hotel London’s prestigious Crystal Room, showcasing and celebrating Paralegal talent from across the UK.

The evening commences with a champagne reception and dinner, which will be followed by the main awards ceremony. Here are the Finalists who were selected by an independent judging panel from hundreds of entries.

Best Family Law Paralegal
Alison Collier- Nowell Meller
Dawn Gore – Trethowans LLP
Iselin Jones- Corbett Le Quesne
Kaya Suleyman – Morrison Solicitors LLP
Nicola Phipps – Wikivorce

Will Writing Organisation of the Year
Bill Hogg – Attorney Wills
Nick Ash – Will and Probate Services
Heritage Will Writers

Best Law Firm – Paralegal Development
Dentons UK and Middle East LLP
Eric Robinson Solicitors
Mayo Wynne Baxter
PM Property Lawyers
Shakespeare Martineau
Shoosmiths
Which Legal

Paralegal Recruitment Organisation of the Year
EJ Group
F Lex
Law Staff Legal Recruitment
The Stephen James Partnership
Simply Law Jobs

Best Trademark Paralegal
Peter Fisher -CP Law Associates
Rebecca McBride
Roy Scott – Keltie LLP

Best ADR Paralegal
Clive Lewis- Globis Mediation Group
Maria Arpa
Qaiser Bari

Best Employment/HR Paralegal
Bina Briggs – Plain Talking HR
Joe Milner – Loch Associates
Leah Caprani – Winckworth Sherwood LLP
Michael Coe-Dimension Eighty Eight

Best Conveyancing Paralegal
Kay Liddle- PM Property Lawyers
Kelvin Cooper-Birketts
Laura Kate Morley- PM Property Lawyers
Rachel Lawrence – Dentons UK

Best Pro Bono Paralegal
Ashleah Skinner
Lyn Berry
Nisar Afsar -BCADS

Best Probate Research Paralegal
Alex Horrod -Anglia Research
Katie Lowe- Estate Research
Lauren Geary – Treethorpe
Lorna Gallacher- Treethorpe
Neil Fraser – Fraser and Fraser

Paralegal Business of the Year
Champion Law
Construction Legal
Divorce Online
Estate Research
Derby Legal Assistance
Fraser and Fraser
Lender & Court
Problem Percy
White Collar Legal

Paralegal of the Year
Ashleah Skinner
Caroline Spencer- Boulton
Gerald Murphy
Ian Lobb
Jonathan Dattani
Julie Herbert
Katie Lowe
Leah Caprani
Michael Coe
Nick Ash
Paige George
Peter Fisher
Philip Nam
Sharon Baker

This year’s headline sponsor is Treethorpes and individual awards have been sponsored by Which Legal, The Institute of Paralegals, Lawyer checker, Heslewood and Grant, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, The Stephen James Partnership, Golden Leaves, Clerksroom, Central Law Training and F-Lex.

Other sponsors include Orion Legal Marketing, Legal Futures and Auscript.

 

Continuing Professional Development spot checks

Continuing Professional DevelopmentThe PPR will be carrying out random spot checks on Continuing Professional Development (CPD) records of registered professional paralegals starting in June 2019.

Why is the PPR doing this?

CPD is required to be undertaken by Tier 2 Paralegals and above.

Members of the PPR are responsible for their own professional development in accordance with the Paralegal Practitioners Rules however to ensure that registered paralegals keep their record cards updated and undertake their set number of CPD hours, we believe spot checks will prove more proportionate and less onerous than requiring all registered members of the PPR to submit their record cards annually.

It is worth noting that registered members who hold Professional Practising Certificates (PPC’s) and are fully regulated by the PPR will be excluded from the spot checks as they must provide their CPD records annually to comply with the Paralegal Practising Certificate Rules.

How will I know if I’ve been selected for spot-checking?

The PPR will contact those selected for spot-checking to ask for evidence of completion of their CPD hours and their record card.

Why have I been selected?

Paralegals will be selected entirely at random.

What is Continual Professional Development (CPD)?

Continual Professional Development (CPD) is any relevant and valid education or training by a Paralegal to enable them to develop his or her professional knowledge, skills and abilities.

The CPD should cover:

  • Law – procedure and practice
  • Client care skills
  • Practice skills
  • Organisational and management skills

What are the PPR’s CPD Requirements?

Members at Associate level (Tier 2) and above are required to undertake a minimum of 12 hours CPD in each year of practice.  This increased from 7 hours in each year of practice on 1st September 2018.

3 hours must be gained through formal means such as:

  • Attendance at a legal conference
  • Seminars
  • Workshops
  • Courses
  • Training
  • Publishing papers, articles or books

The remaining hours may be gained through private study; taking part in consultations; in-house training; reading journals or books; preparing training materials or presentations.

Records and Monitoring

Paralegals who are registered are required to complete and maintain a CPD record in good faith.

If a member does not have a summary of their CPD i.e. what you did, when, with which provider (if relevant) and the benefit to your professional education (e.g. legal updating, new skill, etc.) then they can download the PPR’s CPD Record Template to complete by clicking here.

Are there any exemptions?

A Member may, in extenuating circumstances, apply for an exemption of up to 4 hours CPD.

If a Member has not complied with the requisite CPD requirements and they are not entitled to an exemption, the PPR will investigate and may withdraw the Member from the PPR. A Member’s CPD record may be used in any complaint investigation that alleges lack of knowledge or incompetent practice.

If a Member holds a practising certificate, they will be excluded from the spot checks.

If you have any questions or queries, please contact the Head of Memberships and Events, Abby Dennis by email on abby.dennis@ppr.org.uk or phone 01442 508 206.

PPR applauds the Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation

Rita Leat, Managing Director of the Professional Paralegal Register (PPR) has given Rita Leat, Managing Director of the PPRpraise to Professor Stephen Mason for undertaking the Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation.

The current system of regulation via the approved regulators under the Legal Services Board is at best confusing and at worst detrimental for consumers to enable them to understand where to turn for redress when things go wrong.

There has been a strong argument to suggest that one super regulator such as the LSB should be formed that would help consumers to access redress quicker and more simply, with one set of regulations that cover all providers of Legal Services. This of course is not something that has been received well by individual regulators who wish to keep their set of regulations as being specific to job titles. But is this the right approach?

Regulation of the services (where needed) makes better sense to ensure that only those high-risk matters are indeed regulated. This would better enable professional bodies to regulate conduct only with no overlap with the regulation applied to certain services.

From the unregulated sector, the PPR has risen to provide an overarching voluntary regulatory scheme for all those who would otherwise remain unregulated. Regulation here covers all job titles as there are no real differences in the requirements for professional practice no matter what your job title is.

The PPR, similar to Cilex, operate a two-tier approach to regulation. Recognised Bodies of the PPR handle first Tier complaints which can then be escalated to the PPR as an independent regulator operating an arbitration scheme.

As the leading authority and regulatory scheme for Paralegals we enable individuals to practice specific services only which makes it transparent for consumers.

The PPR who recently held the first National Paralegal Awards with 200 attending across the sector, are determined to rid the legal services market of self-regulatory schemes that offer no protection for consumers who are left to pick up the pieces of an unsatisfactory service.

Kate Hoey, MP recently said ‘regulation by membership bodies is not regulation at all as it does not offer real redress for consumers’. Kate Hoey is a Patron of the PPR and advocates that all Paralegals should join the PPR. No other form of ‘self-regulation’ is recognised by the PPR.

The PPR welcomes the report next year and continues to strive to ensure that consumers are put at the heart of all regulatory decisions.