Estate Administration
Legal Indemnities

The role of digital transformation in addressing probate pain points – the days of paper-based processes are limited

First published on Today’s Wills and Probate.

When CLS established their Estate Administration Customer Focus Group its primary purpose was to discover the ‘pain points’ probate solicitors experience. No amount of data and analysis is as good as a discussion with our law firm customers to help us find out about process problems and the barriers law professionals face when trying to efficiently administer an estate. After all, it is only through a thorough understanding of the problem that you can find an innovative solution.

It isn’t a case of a bad workman blaming their tools for poor workmanship when, in the case of probate and private client solicitors, they don’t currently have the automated tools or innovative process solutions to help them do their jobs with the efficiency and speed demanded by today’s consumer.

At CLS, Anthony O’Hanlon, Head of Customer Development, remembers the days when automation and lawyers just didn’t sit side-by-side in the same sentence. Those days are long gone with law firms recognising that they need to embrace automation and innovation to not just survive but thrive.

Anthony O’Hanlon, Head of Customer Development, CLS
Anthony O’Hanlon, Head of Customer Development, CLS

The probate pain points

In the diverse CLS Estate Administration Consumer Focus Group, with input from high profile national practices and high street firms, it was surprising that there was so much consensus on the problem pain points. Without the input of the Group, CLS would have assumed that the issues would have varied depending on charging structures, work volumes, and the complexities of the estates. However, with the assistance of the Consumer Focus Group, we were able to identify the following trends and common pitfalls:

  • Multiple data entry of the same information - even where law practices operate a case management system. This requirement to input the same data generates the potential for errors and makes probate work unnecessarily labour intensive in comparison to other areas, such as conveyancing.
  • Probate and estate administration solicitors spend their time on searches; whether it is will searches, bankruptcy and property searches, asset tracing or locating missing beneficiaries. Life would be easier if these were available without time-consuming numerous phone calls for quotes or repetitive processes for each product.
  • Automation without the need for repeat data entry would enhance the customer experience as it would free up fee earner time for improved client communication.    

Probate innovation – a leap forward with a one stop shop

Most estate administration solicitors adopted the use of technology some time ago. However their current frustrations stem from online services on multiple platforms with all the hassle of swapping between services to find the best products.

Standing back from the pain point, CLS realised that what was needed was a digital leap forward to achieve innovative transformation through producing a gateway platform to all the services that a busy estate administration lawyer needs. Put simply, a digital platform akin to the Amazon or Etsy online shop model, with one interface and one entry point but with multiple products and services all managed from behind the scenes through PIPA. A place where you can complete your shop and order in one go, creating a digital experience that’s very familiar to us all in our personal lives.

“Time-saving is important as estate administration solicitors currently have to go to various websites and portals. Having one place to go to for searches and results will make the job so much easier. A best practice process will be useful for law firms to establish structure and order and ensure things are done at the right time.”

— Nia Griffiths, Associate and Team Leader of the Trusts and Estates department, Hugh James.

Probate – the innovative future

The CLS Consumer Focus Group was clear; whatever the size of a probate department, estate administration solicitors need and deserve an integrated and automated online system if they are to continue to command the client satisfaction that they work so hard to achieve.

Without that innovation and automation, packaged in a cost-effective solution, probate lawyers will fall behind the levels of efficiency and revenue generation achieved in other areas of legal practice. In our Estate Administration Client Focus Group there was a positive demand for change that CLS has felt compelled to listen to and act on.

“Heading customer development at CLS is easier than it sounds as I work with some fantastic lawyers who are very open with us about their pain points, comfortable in the knowledge that once we understand what is holding them back, we can design an order platform around their professional needs that is both innovative and intuitive. The input of the probate professionals has led to the development of our Estate Administration solution launching in early August.”

— Anthony O’Hanlon, Head of Customer Development, CLS

A free to access service with products from leading providers, all designed to meet the needs of the busy estate administration solicitor and their staff. That is the key to good innovation as the product should be so accessible that probate professionals conclude that they didn’t realise how they coped before the launch of an efficient probate services order platform, bringing the right automated tools to the legally and emotionally challenging job of estate administration.

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