Fixed fee probate – truly fair on the practitioner?
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Practitioners report the growing time that it takes to conduct probate is affecting their ability to charge fairly for the work they complete.

The challenges facing practitioners around delays mean they are spending more and more time on cases with diminishing returns.

For those practitioners who have taken the step to increase prices, they acknowledge that ultimately the client is paying for the impact of the pandemic.

The Guardian recently reported that lockdown restrictions coupled with the introduction of the new computer system have contributed to these unprecedented delays. As a result, probate has leapt from being a process that usually takes just a few weeks to complete, to one that can now take up to nine months.

These delays understandably leave bereaved clients feeling stressed and anxious at an already difficult time and add an unnecessary workload burden to busy professionals in an over-stretched industry.

The situation is exacerbated in cases where a property sale is involved. Today’s Wills and Probate reported that the unfortunate spike in deaths caused by the pandemic has caused a severe backlog of properties due to be sold as probate and that a current shortage of surveyors, estate agents and social distancing rules have also slowed the process.

Adam Bonner, Managing Director at property investment specialists Proffered explains how these delays impact bereaved families financially.

“Delays in the sale of the property not only affect the bereaved family emotionally but also financially. The longer the property remains unsold, the longer the family will incur household running costs, which may include mortgages, commitments to equity release, insurances, energy, the list goes on. Over the course of a few months this can run into thousands of pounds. Not to mention that uninhabited properties are more susceptible to one off issues such as frozen pipes, which can cost a significant amount in repairs.”

And for practitioners the time they invest is increasing, affecting their ability to charge a fair price to clients. Research has shown that the average property sale takes 45 phone calls and 71 emails, which equates to roughly 20 hours of legal time.

How many practitioners have factored this into their pricing? And how many have had to inflate their pricing to account for this, which is ultimately a cost they have to pass on to their clients.

For some practitioners and executors, the solution is to look at alternative ways to speed up the process and provide greater surety around timescales.

One route is to consider the sale of the property-to-property investment organisations. For Bonner, greater surety of timescales provides relief for families and helps practitioners with what can become a very drawn-out process.

“Proffered can buy and complete the sale of a property in the family’s chosen timeframe (from as little as seven days) which significantly undercuts typical estate agent timings of 19 to 21 weeks and is much shorter than current probate sale timeframes.

“We review 4000 distinct data points, eliminating the need for physical valuations or viewings, and enabling us to provide guaranteed offers on properties often within a matter of hours; a welcome service to probate solicitors and estate planners in need of a quick and effective solution to offer to bereaved clients.”

The service has already proved successful and popular with many companies from a variety of sectors, including high street and Legal 500 firms, as well as leading financial services providers and nationwide property developers.

For more information about Proffered and how its services can help you and your clients, please contact:

proffered Ltd. is registered in England and Wales No. 13035321
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