With a population currently sitting at just under 5.5 million; there are around 55,000 deaths per year in Scotland. When someone dies, there is a process of dealing with their financial, legal and tax affairs, often referred to as the ‘probate process’.
While many opt to ‘learn on the job’, the probate process has long been a source of frustration, confusion and stress for grieving families in Scotland. This old-fashioned system, deeply rooted in historical practices, can appear resistant to the modern age, indicating an urgent need to streamline and simplify them, ushering in the age of ‘death tech’.
Mike Davis, founder of My Probate Partner, shares his insight into the probate process in Scotland and how embracing the latest technology can save consumers time and money, whilst reducing frustration and stress.
What is probate and why do you need it?
In around 50% of deaths in Scotland, families will need to obtain special paperwork provided by the local Sheriff Court to be able to deal with certain assets. This paperwork is referred to as a number of terms including a ‘Grant of Confirmation’, ‘Grant of Probate’ or ‘Letters of Administration’.
How does the probate process in Scotland differ from the rest of the UK?
In Scotland, probate is officially called ‘Confirmation’. There are a few technical differences, but in reality, they have the same function: to give the person named in a Will the authority to deal with the assets that require probate (or the next of kin where there is no Will).
The English/Welsh process was updated in 2019 to include a new and relatively easy-to-use online platform, however, the Scottish process remains paper-based and requires antiquated language and specific formatting that is not made clear to the applicant. Furthermore, if the person died with more than £36,000 to their name, the court will not provide any help or guidance.
What are the pros and cons to doing probate yourself?
Completing probate on your own can have both advantages and disadvantages, and it often depends on your specific situation and how much time and patience you have for administrative work.
One of the most compelling advantages of completing probate on your own is the cost savings. Solicitor fees are estimated somewhere between 2 and 5 per cent of the value of the estate, with prices often starting at around £3000.
However, depending on what type of assets there are in the estate, there might be a lot of correspondence with various organisations required. But there are free tools like Settld to try and make corresponding with companies run more smoothly.
Are there specific technologies or software platforms designed for probate in Scotland?
My Probate Partner provides an alternative, cost-effective way to do probate that allows individuals to stay in control of the process, without needing to spend lots of time learning about how it works – whilst also saving money. We help people navigate the administrative process after someone dies, without using expensive solicitors. Our paid-for services help people with the court application which is required in around 50% of deaths and is almost impossible to do in Scotland without professional help.
Our platform shares knowledge on how to navigate the administrative process after someone dies to help people avoid the many pitfalls involved. We only charge a fee for specialist services to help people through the impenetrable Scottish court probate process (officially called ‘Confirmation’ in Scotland). This is very different to a full ‘concierge’ service offered by traditional law firms who will take over the whole process and usually charge a small fortune for the convenience.
Do death tech platforms provide as personalised a service as a solicitor? Is there a concern it may ‘de-humanise’ the process?
The vast majority of our customers are already trying to do this process on their own, when they come across us. In the past, they would either end up in a seemingly endless loop with the court or unwillingly need to use a solicitor.
Platforms such as My Probate Partner are simplifying the process to make probate administration less stressful and easier to complete. That being said, these platforms should be reinforced to support users with strong customer service. For instance, technology is being used to simplify many processes such as automated call menus, which directs the call to the right place/person. While these are a great resource for cutting administration time, they can vary in length and complexity, and many can attest to becoming frustrated with automatic call menus and uttering the question “Can I just be put through to a real person?”.
I believe the same should apply to the probate process. Regardless of the platform’s streamlining abilities, it must be matched with the same level of support, which is why our platform is dedicated to providing 5-star human support.
What are the key benefits of using death technology for probate in terms of efficiency and accuracy?
It’s still early days for technical advances in probate, but there are a growing number of companies trying to make a difference in a process that will affect every family at some stage. For us, technology allows us to offer our services online and be a fully remote company, leading to very quick turnaround times and lower costs.
Unfortunately, there is only so much that companies like My Probate Partner can do. In order to see the sort of radical change we think is necessary to simplify things for bereaved families, it would require the government, courts and financial organisations to come together as key stakeholders and redesign the whole process.
How has the Scottish public responded to death tech platforms such as My Probate Partner?
Very well! There are a growing number of people dealing with this process that are used to using technology to solve problems. We often hear phrases like “your service is exactly what I was looking for” and “I knew there had to be a solution like this”.
It’s very clear to me that a growing number of people have higher expectations when it comes to solving administrative problems and the level of service they receive whilst doing so.
What does the Scottish probate process need to change going forward and what should consumers know?
In terms of the most impactful changes that could be made:
- companies need to invest in their bereavement processes to allow families quicker and easier access to the assets.
- the Scottish courts need to completely overhaul their application process.
- we need to look at other countries and how they are handling public administration like ID and issuing death certificates/other important documents digitally.
I believe consumers should take steps in their lifetimes to make things easier on those they leave behind. The most impactful things would include:
- making a Will and Power of Attorney
- listing all the organisations with which they have a financial relationship with.
- pre-planning aspects of their funeral
Taking these relatively simple steps now will drastically improve the after-death experience for their families, allowing them to focus on their grief rather than bureaucracy and stress.