The probate process can be complicated, stressful and protracted; with the time it takes to complete the administration largely dependent on the size and complexity of the estate. However, in cases where there may be doubts about the integrity or legality of a Will or how the process is being handled, things can quickly become even more fraught.

Losing a family member or other loved one is an inherently emotional time and, for many, this can lead to feelings of extreme reticence when dealing with the deceased's affairs, even when there might be strong grounds for challenging probate. Fortunately, with the help of an experienced and sensitive contested probate solicitor to provide advice and guidance, challenging probate need not be an insurmountable task.

21st Century Law, 19th Century Practices

Sadly, although their probate services may be excellent, too many firms handling contentious probate claims still rely on twentieth- and sometimes even nineteenth- century modi operandi whereby the probate solicitor sends out forms via snail mail, arranges office-based meetings and, on occasion, reduces direct contact with the case by using assistants to carry out many probate processes and tasks.

Were it not for the fact that these working practices are so common they would doubtless be considered anachronistic, but, as it is, clients continue to feel unable to access contested probate legal services using the twenty-first century methods they are now familiar and comfortable with from other areas of their lives.

This situation is felt no more keenly than at the first point-of-contact. Quite simply, those who have questions regarding the validity of a Will or the probate process may never even get around to contacting a law firm because they fear the potential cost, have no forum for making initial enquiries or have a negative perception of inaccessible and starched lawyers operating behind closed doors and within oak-panelled offices.

Supported by Statistics

A recent survey by mmadigital supports this picture. It found that 83% of participants said they would rather make first contact with a probate solicitor online than face-to-face. Although part of this is inevitably due to the fear of immediately incurring significant expense, it is also about ease of use; people have become accustomed to using online chat portals and contact forms to discover information and in this context reverting to more expensive, more time-consuming and less direct methods does not make sense.

The mmadigital survey further demonstrates that although the probate legal services consumer has evolved into the digital age, the profession hasn't. Of those surveyed nearly half said they would choose to use online chat sources or video calls if it had the potential to keep costs down and save time, while around four in ten expressed a desire to see increased use of AI technology in law firms for more mundane, repetitive tasks in order to free-up solicitors' time.

None of this is to say that probate solicitors and clients need never meet – far from it; only that the services they provide should be supported and enhanced by digital and AI technologies.

Only 55% of respondents said they valued face-to-face meetings between solicitors and clients for the human nature aspect and it seems that the priority for law firm clients is getting things done quickly, cost-effectively, but to the highest possible standard – if this means only limited personal contact, they are happy.

Legal Services for Probate Clients

Probate clients, especially those with fairly simple probate estate administration needs, should be pragmatic. If you are going through loss and all its emotional and administrative fallout, why complicate the process with yet another personal relationship. With contested probate you are likely to be juggling difficult family relationships alongside the legal process, so the clearer and more straightforward your communication with your probate lawyer, the better.

It's clear from consumer feedback that law firms need to make themselves more accessible to consumers who are living in the digital age, from first contact to the digitisation of various processes to move estate administration forward.

We live in an age when consumers are feeling more and more at ease with making enquiries via online portals and carrying out communications via digital channels as long as they are secure and have simple interfaces with reliable functionality. In fact, and especially for fixed-fee probate clients, making an initial enquiry via the internet where they can see prices and what's involved can be preferable in helping them gain access to the probate solicitor most suited to their needs.

The Oratto View

Digital and AI provision in the legal service may only be a recent phenomenon but there is no doubt that these innovations have already helped improve the speed, efficiency and cost effectiveness of many areas of the legal marketplace. However, parts of the sector, including probate firms, remain resistant to change despite the obvious demand from consumers.

Oratto's mission is to introduce increased competition and efficiency to the marketplace in order to improve services and reduce costs for consumers.

Will writing and probate is the area of legal services with the broadest demographic of clients – pretty much everyone in the country will rely on a Wills or probate service at some time in their lives – so by having access to platforms and portals that make it easy to review and interact with solicitors, clients have a much greater chance of finding a practitioner who is suitable for them and their circumstances.

Whether you are an executor, a beneficiary or other party Oratto can help you consider your options and your rights in the probate process while also helping you find a solicitor who specialises in handling contested probate. If you have concerns over whether estate administration is being handled correctly or that you have been unjustly been deprived of the whole or part of an estate we can help you access the services of a contested probate solicitor who has experience in handling cases similar to yours.

At Oratto we have embraced new technologies to simultaneously enhance our service and to reduce your costs, but we have lost none of our personal touch. Get in touch with us today.