Round Table Round Up: Probate Delays, Staff Well Being And Future Storms
Industry experts have condemned probate fee delays, considered staff well-being, discussed how to prepare for future success and contemplated the present and future issues in the growth of DIY Wills and online Will services.
Probate Delays and Regulatory Silence
HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has been under intense criticism regarding the increasing delays to probate applications.
Recently, the probate registry released data, collated from HMCTS’ HMCTS Reform Core Case Data system, suggesting that the average waiting time for a probate application was 5.6 weeks.
The data alluded to an average two week wait in April, six week delay in May and a nine week delay in June. Figures those attending Today’s Wills and Probate recent round table event in Bristol believe are extremely flattering to the probate registry.
Kings Court Trust currently have over 150 grant applications dating back to May 2019 currently unactioned. 50% of the applications that have been completed by the probate registry are incorrect, leading to returns clogging up the system and further delays.
Delegates were concerned that probate grants and applications are being sent to other registries without warning. This causes confusion as applicants are oblivious as to who is dealing with their application.
Overwhelmingly, HMCTS systems are failing to communicate effectively enough with the public and professionals involved in the probate process. There was a growing sentiment that Probate registries are overwhelmed which is portrayed through a lack of transparency on the actions being taken to tackle the backlog.
Many law firms, probate departments and private client departments are losing faith in their regulatory bodies. The majority perceived regulators as taking a back seat, making little headway with HMCTS.
Recruitment, Retention and Staff Well-Being
Following the statistic that over two thirds of legal service professionals experience large levels of work based stress, published in the Bellwether Report 2019 ‘Stress in the Legal Profession: Problematic or Inevitable’, by LexisNexis UK, the idea of staff well-being has been high on the agenda in the majority of Wills, Probate and Estate Planning businesses.
The sector is responding to the concern by offering an array of innovative solutions.
Trevor Worth, CEO of Portcullis Legals, recently amended their working hours to incorporate a four-day working week for all staff, a move he claims is heralding huge rewards for the business.
Firstly, staff productivity and morale has increased exponentially. It is also seen as a huge staff retention tool. Overall, it has changed the mentality within the business with employees permeating the positive treatment they receive by offering exemplary customer service.
Kings Court Trust offer mental health first aiders to ensure their staff well being is considered on a regular basis.
Other firms offer additional holidays for company loyalty, family flex working, well being benefits packages involving massage or eye care and ongoing training opportunities/courses to help their staff achieve their personal goals.
As the job of the legal service professional becomes increasingly complex, the sentiment was unequivocal – the duty of care to all staff is paramount.
Preparing for Future Success and Weathering the Present Storm
Brexit has impacted most areas of the UK economy with the Law Society predicting a loss of billions to the legal sector in the event of a no-deal scenario.
With the housing market faltering and solicitors making less from conveyancing fees and the probate registry backlog delaying probate work, there is a growing fear that a blocked and declining cashflow will cause noticeable instability.
The contentious issue of DIY Wills and online wills was also broached by attendees with many anxious that a lack of ID checks, Wills not being executed by a professional or at all, could create issues when the client dies which could cause reputational damage to the profession.
Others were concerned that reduced prices could trigger a race to the bottom with many traditional will writers unable to compete with online prices.
Delegates were in agreement that quality of service will ultimately define how customers choose to execute a Will. Exemplary service and quality standards of expertise will rise to the top. There will be a growing importance in demonstrating what will be offered to the consumer.
Some stated the importance of protecting data and a business’ digital presence by making sure the firm is compliant with regulatory bodies such as the SRA; starting with a robust cyber certification like Cyber Essentials or ISO27001.
In a bid to emphasise value for money and service, it is thought all businesses in Wills and estate planning will need to ensure their will banks are up to date with processes in place for regular contact with clients.
If you feel as though you could add to the conversation and would like more information of upcoming round table events, please contact [email protected]