Probate Fraud – A Practitioners’ Perspective

Probate Fraud – A Practitioners’ Perspective

Committing fraud in a situation such as that of probate may not prove a consideration for many decent human beings. However, some individuals have and would stoop to such levels and commit probate fraud, without consideration for the grieving beneficiaries. It is imperative that you keep your wits about you for the sake of your business, and clients that could potentially be affected, by trusting your instincts if you have any particular suspicions. Even if these suspicions turn out to be erroneous, at least you have peace of mind that you have avoided being a victim of a scam – on whatever scale it may have been.

A large number of individuals have the ability to directly influence probate, and as a result, potentially commit fraud. Clearly a competent solicitor or probate practitioner with proven reliability in handling probate cases will have the necessary knowledge and processes in place to effectively handle the estate of a deceased person. However, as technology develops, the likelihood of fraud increases as the fraudsters become more sophisticated and generate new ways to infiltrate. This means firms as well as sole practitioners must be regularly evolving their policies, checks and processes in order to adapt to these growing threats.

Current statistics show how just over 1 in 4 legal service users are receiving their services online – up from 20% just four years ago. A recent survey also indicated how levels of trust are starting to fall within the profession. In 2015, 47% believed their legal professionals were trustworthy, in comparison only 42% have retained that trust up until April 2016.

In previous years, it has been predicted that probate fraud was uncommon and only accounted for a cost in the region of £50m a year. This turned out to be a considerable underestimation, with it now being believed the cost of probate fraud totals £150m a year, according to the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). Half of the professionals that were questioned stated they had come across cases of fraud in the last year.

A banking practices protocol was agreed between the British Bankers’ Association, the Law Society of England & Wales and the STEP. The idea behind this was to bring a sense of clarity to probate dealings by having set processes to carry out and easing the burden on those left behind who are having to deal with the estate. It sets out information required by the bank in order for the practitioner to manage a deceased’s bank account securely and efficiently.

To ensure peace of mind and enhance your due diligence, you should also be checking who you are sending monies to during probate. Consumer Bank Account Checker, a new service developed by Lawyer Checker, is able to validate the destination of funds. Powered by Experian’s unrivalled consumer database, the service offers four separate checks which combine to give you the necessary confidence to continue with your transaction.

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This article was submitted to be published by Lawyer Checker as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Wills & Probate. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Wills & Probate.

David Burrows from Lawyer Checker