Pro­bate firm in wills U-turn

Daily Mail - - Money Mail - By James Salmon

A PRO­BATE firm ac­cused of over­charg­ing says it will now al­low be­reaved fam­i­lies to shop around for a bet­ter deal.

The firm, called ITC, of­fers a will-writ­ing ser­vice but spe­cialises in pro­bate. It has a tie-up with banks such as Bar­clays. Those us­ing Bar­clays for will-writ­ing will of­ten have ITC ap­pointed as ex­ecu­tor.

Fam­i­lies can be charged high fees when a pro­bate firm, bank or so­lic­i­tor that does the will-writ­ing also acts as ex­ecu­tor.

ITC has un­til now re­fused to re­nounce its ex­ecu­tor­ship — cit­ing duty of care to the de­ceased — if the ben­e­fi­cia­ries want to ap­point an­other firm or do it them­selves . This means ben­e­fi­cia­ries are of­ten locked into pay­ing high charges.

The move rep­re­sents a ma­jor climb­down for the firm, which was crit­i­cised in last week’s Money Mail for high charges and us­ing a free helpline and ad­vice web­site to drum up busi­ness.

It also gives be­reaved fam­i­lies the free­dom to choose their pro­bate provider.

ITC says it will only refuse to give up du­ties as an ex­ecu­tor if there are le­git­i­mate con­cerns, such as a fam­ily dis­pute.

All the ben­e­fi­cia­ries also have to ask ITC to step down.

Martin Trees, chief ex­ec­u­tive of I TC, says: ‘ Tra­di­tion­ally, pro­fes­sional will-writ­ers, law f i rms, banks and spe­cial­ist pro­bate providers have re­fused to re­nounce ex­ecu­tor­ships in the vast ma­jor­ity of cases on the ba­sis of their “duty of care” to the de­ceased.

‘ How­ever, this of­ten l eaves ben­e­fi­cia­ries “locked in” to higher charges and providers vul­ner­a­ble to charges of self-in­ter­est from the ben­e­fi­cia­ries.’

Chris Part­ing­ton, a pro­bate spe­cial­ist at Manch­ester-based so­lic­i­tor Slater Heelis, says: ‘Maybe this is an ad­mis­sion of guilt, but it’s good news.

‘ Be­reaved fam­i­lies should be able to shop around for the best deal.’

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