Supporter In Focus: Executor Solutions

In a series of Supporters in Focus pieces, we are thrilled to introduce our supporters of The British Wills & Probate Awards 2020.

This year the awards will recognise a sector which has tackled the challenges presented by Covid-19 head on. Alongside headline sponsor Arken.Legal, we look forward to recognising achievement, highlighting progression and championing innovation.

This week, we profile Probate Provider of the Year sponsors, Executor Solutions.

We’re delighted to have the Executor Solutions on board with the third year of The British Wills & Probate Awards. First of all, tell us who you are and what you do

Executor Solutions (ES) are a specialist property company working with law firms across the UK.

We focus on delivering services to protect, maintain, value and market property. Putting that property in the best position to market for the best returns for the estate.

Managing, maintaining and marketing property is time consuming! It involves a lot of mini projects; procurement and contract management, maintenance and renovation works, surveys and inspections, document and asset searches, arranging specialist insurance and approaches to the marketing of a property. This all takes time and cost. We can help.

We combine expertise with sensitivity to provide a complete end-to-end solution to help manage any aspect of property left vacant by the passing of its owner or where a home needs to be sold to pay for the assisted living or specialist care of its owner.

Saving you time – we are well-versed in estate management, operating services and managing a network of contractors to assess requirement and complete works efficiently without the need for close involvement and in a way that is accountable, demonstrates value for the estate and saves time for our clients.

Saving the Estate money – the nature of our experience in property and estate management and operation of a network of contractors mean we are able to offer an uncompromised service to our legal clients at competitive rates. This represents a saving to the estate.

We can help with all sorts of elements of estate management including:

  • Vacant Property Insurance
  • Property Valuation
  • Property marketing and sale
  • Property Maintenance
  • Compliance, surveys and reports

What have Executor Solutions been doing over the past 9 months since The British Wills & Probate Awards 2019?

We have been busy working with executor and deputies on a whole host of projects and as always, the work has been varied and interesting.

We very much enjoy working with our clients and adapting to their needs and over the last 9 months we have ventured into new lines of business to further help our clients.

Key holding – helping to keep property secure and making sure legal colleagues never face an intruder, avoid personal injury claims and time lost from your business.

Vehicle insurance – insuring any vehicle left at a property left vacant

Property Investment Advice – for new and existing investors to help them steer them on their property journey.

Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, what do you think is the biggest challenge the sector has faced over the last 12 months?

Prior to Covid the industry faced process changes and significant challenges to the progression of cases.

The government’s proposed redesign of the probate fee structure, announced in early 2019, caused concern right across the industry resulting in a surge of probate applications, in a very short period of time, clogging the capacity of many across the industry.

This coincided with new processing procedures which were introduced at the probate registries along with the announced closure of regional probate registries. The result of this change, and the concerns of proposed changes, meant that applications for a grant slipped from 2 weeks to at least 12 weeks (and sometimes longer).

There were also delays at HMRC (caused by the large number of applications) and, where an estate was taxable, timescales for the return of the IHT receipt were taking at least 5 working weeks. For a taxable estate this meant it could take 3 – 4 months to obtain a grant!

Up against these challenges HMRC worked hard to reduce timescales which they were managing to do by early 2020. Unfortunately, Covid then hit and while organisations up and down the UK reduced staff and/or changed working practises, procedures and efficiency were hit. Timescales in probate have therefore slipped.

For us, this frustrated the intentions of many of our clients. It has been good to help providing ongoing support.

And what innovations were you seeing in the market?

It is no surprise that the biggest innovations we see are those that are facilitated by technology. Technical change is everywhere. The last time we bought a 99 from an ice cream van, we paid via a contactless reader and got the receipt emailed to us! … brilliant!

But it’s not just about the technology, it’s about a culture, leadership and an acceptance and expectation that innovation and change, afforded by technology, will help business to grow and thrive. It’s about adoption as much as its about technology.

Technological innovation is driving better business, better brands through better customer service, more transparent processes and is a way to attract more talent by being a forward-looking company.

The firms that are most successful at adopting new ways of doing things are those with leaders that take innovation seriously. Change and innovation must come from the top with leaders that are actively involved.

E-signatures have been a great example of technological innovation that is helping law firms to deliver great customer service. Offering clients the opportunity to sign documents directly from their smartphone, tablet or desktop to enhance the client experience by making document signing faster, easier, more convenient and secure is extremely positive, both in respect of the speedier and more convenient alternative to traditional methods and in relation to the security that the technology affords, with an audit trail that captures who signed what, when and where for every transaction. Great for the business brand too.

What has the impact of the Coronavirus meant for Executor Solutions?

Covid has been a huge challenge both in terms of safety and in future proofing a business.

The first concern was to keep people safe and adapt our working environment accordingly. Quickly followed by working hard to adapt and keep the business moving forward.

Like most companies, our business is all about relationships and customer service. As a matter of priority, we spoke to clients to understand their challenges and needs, the changes they were making to staffing, the challenges they faced with movement and the requirements they needed for servicing their clients. We then re-grouped and adapted our services to mirror their need.

We were therefore able to continue to support clients with:

  • Vacant property insurance, without the need to visit a property to conduct mandatory inspections
  • Property maintenance, adhering to social distancing guidelines when carrying out emergency work and using our UK network of contractors to minimise local travel
  • Property Valuation, providing comprehensive desktop property valuations
  • Key holding, on behalf of clients to enable

We found that business quickly adapted as a ‘new normal’ emerged.

What are your predictions for the sector in 2020 and beyond?

Technology will continue to be a leading factor in change in our industry. Not only its wide adoption across society, in all sectors, which drives customer expectation but the significant efficiency and business gains that brings means that it will always be a huge change factor. Technological development speeds up productivity, helps consistency and improves the client experience. It also provides greater flexibility in the workplace.

Remote working will persist, and many will want to reap the rewards of better work life balance. In-house legal teams and law firms are now realising they may not need as much traditional face time with their teams and discovering that remote work may led to happier, harder working lawyers. Many senior managers are finding that their teams are just as efficient while working from home and expect to expand previous “once-a-week” options.

Thank you to Executor Solutions for their support for The British Wills & Probate Awards 2020.

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