At some point in your life, it may be necessary to engage the services of a solicitor and although this may sound like quite an easy task there are some factors you should take into consideration. Just like when buying a car it isn’t always the best idea to go with the first one you find, you should shop around and find a solicitor who is best suited to your individual needs.
Final duties have put together a guide to help you find a solicitor and some factors that you should take into account when choosing one.
Once you have established the need for a solicitor, you need to go about finding one, there are many different routes you can take to do this. As with most things, there are pros and cons to all the options but to ensure you find what you are looking for it is best to shop around.
It is not as common as it used to be to have a family solicitor, the term family solicitor is used to describe a solicitor that has done legal work for family members on more than one occasion, and this work could be in several different areas of law.
The first benefit of using a family solicitor is that you will most likely have a specific person rather than a branch, this means you will already have an understanding of how they work and what to expect. If they have successfully completed work for you or another family member in the past you can be confident that they will continue to do. Using someone that has done work for the deceased previously could benefit the estate if they had a good understanding of their affairs as this can result in a quicker and simpler estate administration process. Having a previous relationship with your solicitor can also affect the way in which you are charged for their services, if they have your best interests at heart, they will charge a fair and competitive fee.
However, in some cases, using a family solicitor is not always the best way to go, especially if you have a personal friendship with your solicitor. Most solicitors will be capable of covering several areas of law, but most will have a speciality, a type of service they do a lot of, this can be divorce, conveyancing, custody ect, just because a solicitor is very successful in one area of law does not guarantee them to be equally as experienced and successful across the board. Not having a lot of experience means that the process could take longer, become more expensive and could also encounter complications that a specialist would know how to correct or avoid. In turn delays and unexpected charges can cause frustration for the executors and beneficiaries and having a personal relationship can cause tension to arise more easily resulting in an effect on the future relationship.
Another potential issue and unfortunately one we come across often in probate is the family of the deceased being charged unfairly for the solicitor’s services. If the solicitor has a good understanding of the deceased financial affairs, they may be inclined to charge a higher price because they know that the estate can afford to cover those costs and they will rely on the trust that is already established to avoid the possibility of having the family getting comparative prices.
Recommendation from friends and family
Recommendations from family and friends can have a lot of power on your decision when choosing a solicitor, as they do with most decisions. The advice you receive from your friends and family are some of the most trustworthy opinions you can get and are worth taking note of.
In general, people are more likely to complain about the bad things than the good, therefore if a solicitor is getting a good recommendation that means they were probably doing something right. Having an example of their success can give you confidence in their experience and ability. You can also decide if they are the kind of solicitor, you are looking for in regard to qualifications, professionalism and speed by pulling from the experience of someone who has already used them and can provide you with an honest review.
On the other hand, a solicitor that did a good job on your best friend’s divorce may not be the right solicitor to use for your father’s probate. It’s important to ensure they have experience in the area of law that you require and will be sensitive to your circumstances. If it is a solicitor’s firm that is recommended you may not be allocated the same solicitor as the person who recommended them and the good qualities that you based your decision on may not be present in the person who is actually doing the work for you.
There are several ways of finding a solicitor locally, this could be by walking or driving past their offices, seeing their name in the local newspaper or from local advertisements.
The benefit of using a local solicitor is first and foremost that they are local. Some people prefer working on a first-person basis, using a local solicitor makes this possible and means you can get through the process in face-face meetings. It can also be easier to explain more complicated issues in person with the use of visual aids. Using a local solicitor can also be helpful when it comes to delivering and collecting documents as you may be able to do this in person rather than using couriers or recorded delivery.
Unfortunately, the downfall of having easy access to the solicitor is the ability to pop in for everything and anything and in most cases, these “pop-ins” aren’t free. A 10-minute drop by could turn into an hour meeting on the bill, this is because most “local” solicitors charge on an hourly basis or on a combination of a percentage of the estate and hourly rate. This also means it could take longer for the estate to be administered as the longer it takes the more hours added to the bill which can end up being very expensive. You may also not be in the local area of a solicitor that specialises in the area of law you need which means you could be sacrificing quality and paying more just for the convenience.
Going online provides immediate access to several potential solicitors with very little leg work. This also provides options that you may not have known about but could be exactly what you are looking for.
There are benefits to finding a solicitor online, the first being that you can narrow down your google search to be much more specific to your needs. If you need a probate solicitor it is very easy to find a specialist, not limited to who is local unless you want to be. Looking online means you are also much more likely to get competitive prices for probate as you have easy access to a lot of options and can compare, it is also a lot easier to find solicitors that work on a fixed fee basis which is generally the most cost-effective pricing method. Working on this fee structure means that it isn’t in the solicitor’s interest to drag out the work as they won’t get paid any more, this can reduce how long probate can take.
Having a good online presence can also affect the level of service you get. Companies that are online-only rely on their internet presence and therefore will put a lot of effort into giving a high level of service to maintain a good reputation.
Although with so many choices it can be overwhelming and confusing. You need to research and know what kind of service you need for example a grant of probate only or a full probate administration.
When you initially call to speak to an adviser you may find yourself speaking to someone in a call centre with not much knowledge or experience so it’s important to make sure you know what questions to ask and if they can answer them.