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.
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.
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.
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.