When a loved one has passed away, the very idea of navigating through the probate process can be overwhelming. Ideally, finding the right legal help for probate should be quick and easy so that you have much more time to focus on other matters.
But the process of administering an estate can be long and stressful, and although law firms should be doing all they can to help make the process as straightforward as possible for all their consumers at such a difficult time, the fact is many aren’t, and a lack of transparency in pricing means it is not realistic for a grieving legal customer to easily compare probate quotes while also finding the time to sort out all the other crucial matters involved with the death of a loved one. Recently released statistics have shown this.
New research has shown that clients in need of a probate solicitor are still not shopping around for the best deal on the right legal service for them. The Legal Service’s Consumer Panel’s annual Tracker Survey found that many customers were failing to make good use of the available resources to help them compare prices from many firms, such as comparison websites and customer review websites. One of the survey’s main findings is that the number of consumers who shop around for a legal service continues to remain low, with just 27% of respondents reporting they search the market for the best option. Worryingly, with only 16% comparing prices, probate is an area where customers appear to shop around the least.
The encouraging news, however, is that, out of those who do shop around, many are often satisfied with the service they receive; a large proportion of these consumers (73%) reported a wide range of choice of provider, which is an increase on the figure from 2016 (68%), and around four out of five (79%) said that they found it easy to understand information on price. The uptake of fixed-fee services has also risen, increasing to its highest level at 52%, which continues a consistent upward trend since 2012 (when the figure was only 38%). This is at least a step in the right direction, although it's clear that much more still needs to be done to promote and facilitate the idea of comparing the prices and quality of legal services before buying, similar to how many buy their car insurance, before it becomes standard in the sector.
This view was expressed by the chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, Sarah Chambers, who stated that more needs to be done to encourage legal consumers to compare the market.
“It remains a concern that 7 out of 10 consumers do not shop around in the legal services market. This needs to change if the vision of empowered consumers stimulating competition is to be achieved,” Chambers said.
Chambers also commended regulators who've already implemented methods for "improving pricing structures and cost transparency across the market" to help achieve this objective.
The legal industry has recognised the need for price transparency, and recently there has been more of a push for firms to publish their prices online, making it easier for legal consumers to compare prices. Back in June, the Solicitors Regulation Authority announced that firms offering probate services will need to start publishing their probate service fees online in a bid to reach this goal.
At Oratto, we understand that obtaining a probate quote can be a laborious process, requiring the mentally exhausting work of calling up several providers, none of whom may be able to provide you with a price upfront, which does nothing but add uncertainty and further worry to an already emotionally draining time. There is no reason why those seeking probate services shouldn't be able to easily receive quotes from a number of suitable firms and then compare and decide which is right for them all in a matter of minutes, but, as suggested in the research, the current reality is that many simply don’t find it possible to do so. What's more, firms that do provide fixed fees often do so for a 'Grant Only' service, where solicitors will only apply for a grant of representation; the client is still left in the dark about costs regarding the administration of assets. A fixed-fee may also be advertised, but the client is expected to have a lengthy phone call discussion before they receive it.
However, Oratto is a playing a key role in the sea-change towards a simpler, more transparent future with the use of our Probate Cost Calculator, which provides instant onscreen quotes for estate administration and probate work. By increasing awareness of such necessary tools, we hope that soon all potential clients in search of probate services will be empowered to make informed choices and receive the guidance they need.
Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with an adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.