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Private client and family law lender expands into probate

3 min read


Private client and family law lender expands into probate


Probate delays are leaving an increasing number of beneficiaries out of pocket.

Probate delays are leaving an increasing number of beneficiaries out of pocket.

Level, the City of London-headquartered lender specialising in the family and private client law sectors, has today (2 May) announced both a strategic acquisition and an injection of funding, with the company purchasing Tower Street Finance, a leading provider of probate loans, and securing new investment from private equity firm Kendal Capital and debt financing from Correlation Risk Partners. The acquisition of Tower Street Finance grants Level access to a burgeoning new market, which continues to grow because of lengthening probate processing times and financial pressures on beneficiaries.

A GROWING MARKET

Probate delays can leave beneficiaries in a financial bind – and, just like delays in England and Wales’s criminal and civil justice systems – they’re getting worse. According to Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures published in the final quarter of 2023, in the first nine months of last year 6,942 people were forced to wait six months or more for probate to be granted, an increase of more than 100% on the 3,267 who had to wait as long in 2020. Moreover, over the same period 969 families had to wait more than a year – an increase of 65% over 2020 – and 329 applicants saw more than 18 months elapse between application for and grant of probate. In 2019, HM Courts & Tribunals service introduced a new centralised digitised system into the probate offices of England and Wales with the intention of speeding things up. However, prior to the new system’s introduction, average wait times stood at between four and six weeks; the average today is around 12 weeks, with more the GBP 100 billion tied up across all four nations of the UK.

It is therefore no surprise that demand for probate lending is on the rise, with more and more individuals and families waiting for probate to be granted or for illiquid assets to be sold, while at the same time potentially facing deadlines for inheritance tax payments.

“The acquisition of Tower Street Finance opens a significant new market for Level,” said George Williamson, founder and CEO of Level, in a statement. “Lengthy probate processing delays and the cost-of-living crisis are creating a strong demand for our services, and Tower Street Finance’s expertise perfectly complements our existing family law offering.”

STRATEGIC INVESTMENT AND EXPERIENCED LEADERSHIP

Level’s recent funding round secured an additional GBP 10 million, with £5 million in equity capital from Kendal Capital and GBP 5 million in debt investment from Correlation Risk Partners. Grant Kurland, co-founder and former CEO of Bayport Financial Services, joins Level’s board of advisors as part of the Kendal Capital investment. Other board members include Neil Purslow, CIO and founder of Therium Capital, and Richard Avery-Wright, CEO and founder of 1818 Venture Capital, a major investor in Level.

Williamson continued: “Kendal Capital’s investment not only brings significant equity to accelerate growth, but unparalleled experience in scaling lending businesses. We are well-positioned to meet the growing demand for funding in family and probate legal proceedings, ultimately supporting families in achieving a fast and fair financial outcome.”

Jim Sisson, co-founder of Tower Street Finance, along with two key employees, will join the Level team, bringing the total headcount to 20. An enthusiastic Sisson commented: “I am excited to be joining Level at this time. Bringing together two market leaders creates a best-in-class platform for legal funding. The combined expertise will allow us to develop even better products for our clients in the future.”

Grant Kurland of Kendal Capital echoed Sisson: “Level presents an exciting investment opportunity in a growing market. The combination of Level and Tower Street Finance is well placed to capitalize on their respective leadership positions, and my team is eager to work with the executive team to support their ambitious growth plans.”

Level’s core business – family law finance – is also experiencing growth, with Covid-19 delays still not cleared and backlogs not helped by a rise in litigants in person caused, in part at least, by tightening legal aid qualification criteria. According to the MoJ, in 2023 more than 100,000 children were trapped in family court backlogs.

 

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