Probate Case Journey
The probate process is complicated, archaic and time consuming for all concerned. The pressures of dealing with the administration involved when someone dies can become all-consuming, and sadly for two in five (40%) people, dealing with the bereavement process causes mental health problems. Due to this 62% of individuals recently surveyed will seek a solicitor to facilitate the probate process, or to help administer the estate on their behalf.
To apply for probate the executor must provide information about the person who has passed away including details of bank accounts, investments, and property. This is usually where the problems lie, with legal professionals saying that on average just less than half of their clients have all their affairs in order when they die.
The first point of action is to discover all the deceased’s assets, although most assets may have been provided by the executor, it is the solicitor’s responsibility to ensure there are no hidden or missing assets. And this can be a difficult task because so many people pass away without having left details about the true size of their estate and assets they hold. In fact, 37% of accounts are only discovered during the probate process and in one in five (20%) cases, none of the deceased’s assets are known at the start of the process.
“Making a will is the perfect opportunity to build good records, which are vital in easing the administration of an estate. It’s also important to recognise that assets aren’t static, and therefore records need to be maintained.”
David Newick, CEO Arken.Legal
Focusing on the cash and asset discovery process, the solicitor is required to send a letter with accompanying evidence to each possible institution where the deceased held an asset or liability. There is no standard format for the information required by institutions and so each letter needs to be tailored to the specific institution being contacted. Considering more than 80% of probate cases have at least 10 printed letters sent, this an extremely repetitive and time delaying task. According to two thirds of legal professionals, at least 25% of probate cases are delayed, and the main cause is financial institutions. It can take a minimum of 6 – 8 weeks across all asset discovery with some cases taking up to 12 weeks. 56% of legal professionals surveyed said awaiting responses from institutions takes up the majority of time when dealing with probate cases with 50% saying they have had to wait up to 8 weeks for a response from financial institutions.
All assets and liabilities, and their individual values are further recorded dependent on company processes. Many firms today process their executry work on paper, spreadsheets or legacy case management systems not designed for the job. Just 15% of legal professionals are currently using a dedicated probate software.
The estate information is repopulated for the appropriate court forms, such as the PA1A or PA1P and various IHT forms, if required. The legal professionals and their clients are then faced with further delays from the HMRC, an average of 20 working days, before receiving approval of estate valuations. A probate application can then be completed and submitted, with current delays of 7 weeks on average before this is granted and the estate can be distributed.
“For clients living in a world of increasingly instant communication, they cannot understand why the probate process is so slow and fails to improve. The entire system seems beset by delays and backlogs that have only increased over the last 12 months with no sign of improving. The lack of systems whereby information can be exchanged with the courts, HMRC and financial institutions only adds to the inefficiencies throughout.”
Charlotte Ponder, Legal Director, Countrywide Tax and Trust Corporation Ltd
With the investment in financial technology and open banking being a standard application for most institutions it leaves question as to why the probate industry is being left behind in this digitising age. At Exizent, we don’t believe it has to be this way. We’re committed to improving the bereavement process, which starts with executry teams having the right tools in place. Contact us today and see our platform in action.
For further information on the status of the probate industry download our latest research, The Bereavement Index.
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.