Law firms are issuing 5 million letters a year just on probate

• Most probate work is still paper-based with an average of 25 letters sent in each case – UK wide that’s more than 5 million a year
• On average, financial intuitions take four and a half weeks to get back to law firms with the asset and liability information they need for probate
• Two in three legal firms would invest in dedicated probate software to improve ‘inefficient’ probate process

Law firms are becoming increasingly frustrated with how long they have to wait for the information they need to complete probate, according to the latest research from digital probate platform Exizent.

Exizent’s Bereavement Index surveyed legal professionals handling probate and found that on average financial institutions take four and a half weeks to get back to law firms with information on assets and liabilities, and in more than half of cases it is either up to or over eight weeks.

Law firms deal with 69 probate cases per year on average, so are waiting for the equivalent of six years for the information they need on just a year’s worth of cases.

According to most legal firms, waiting on financial institutions to get back to them not only takes up most of their time on probate cases, but is also the biggest cause of stress to their clients the single biggest cause of delay. Eight in ten legal firms say waiting on asset and liability information causes delays, and 59% say it is the number one cause, while 77% say it got worse during lockdown.

Most probate work is still paper-based with 25 printed letters issues on every case

The most time-consuming and delay-inducing task related to probate is ‘general administration’; 26% of legal professionals say this is what takes up most of their time on a probate case and 36% say it is one of the top five causes of delay.

This is perhaps because so much of the process is still paper-based. Even though nine in ten law firms say at least some of their work has moved online in the past 12 months – mainly as a result of Covid-19 – the vast majority of administration involved is still yet to be digitised.

Exizent’s research found that for 62% of law firms, more than half of the work they do on a probate case to collect information on assets and liabilities is still manual. While for each probate case, an average of 25 printed letters are issued, in one in seven cases, more than 50 printed letters are sent.

The number of probate cases handled by legal services firms annually in the UK is 210,428 which means, based on Exizent’s data, probate is responsible for at least 5.1 million printed letters every year.

Most legal firms think probate process is slow, complicated and the time it takes is ‘unreasonable’

It is perhaps no surprise then that the vast majority of legal professionals (88%) say the probate process is ‘slow and complicated’ while more than half (52%) believe the time it takes to complete probate is unreasonable.

And, while one in four legal firms are resigned to the fact the estates administration process doesn’t work as efficiently as well as it should, 75% think there are things that could be done to improve it.

Two thirds would invest in dedicated probate software to improve the process

When asked what they think would make the process easier for themselves and their clients, 44% of law firms said better communication and relationships with financial institutions, 49% said an easier asset discovery process and 41% said better technology.

Currently, just 15% of law firms use dedicated probate software. However, this is more due to a lack of awareness than a lack of willingness, as most of those that don’t have software (and don’t outsource probate work), said it was either because they were not aware of any dedicated solutions or they had ‘not thought about it before’.

All firms surveyed said investment in technology is one of their top five priorities for the next 12 months, with 22% saying tech is their number one priority and almost two thirds (64%) saying they would consider a dedicated platform for probate management.

Nick Cousins, Founder and CEO of Exizent said:

“Communication (and lack thereof) between executors, financial institutions and law firms is a vital part of the probate process but has been overlooked for some time. The Bereavement Index re-enforces this, with 44% of firms highlighting that better communication would improve their day-to-day work. We believe the administrative tasks facing families after the death of a loved one should be far easier, and that modern technology solutions and services can make this a reality.”

Exizent is building the first ever platform that connects data, services and the network of people involved when someone passes away, making it easier for legal services firms and institutions to work together, making their own processes more efficient and removing the burden from the bereaved.

Cousins continues:

“We also believe in the power of platforms to connect people better and perform repeatable tasks efficiently, quickly and securely at scale.

“That is why we have created a dedicated platform for probate professionals, to help them make their processes more efficient which will ultimately relieve the emotional and financial burden that administering estate has on the bereaved.”

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

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