Wizard way to ease pain of probate process

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THE death of a loved one can be painful enough without the burden of the legal costs often associated with dealing with the financial side.

But York-based online legal services provider The Law Wizard says it has developed a new tool designed to save people money by allowing them to perform the probate process themselves.

The probate process involves dealing with a deceased person’s cash, bank accounts, savings, shares, property and so on.

Tom Hiskey, co-founder and co-director of the firm, said its new product The Probate Wizard is “a completely new way to do probate online”.

He said: “There are a small number of online probate services around at the moment; they either compile forms or provide a system for sending information to a law firm.

“The Probate Wizard takes a huge leap forward by bundling together everything required to get the grant of probate, from letters and forms to guides and support, all plugged into one simple step-by-step system. As a one-stop-shop for DIY probate online, The Probate Wizard is the first of its kind in the UK.”

The Law Wizard, which exhibited at Venturefest Yorkshire 2012, was founded over a year ago by former solicitor Mr Hiskey and Rob Blake, whose background is in IT development.

So far, they have been working on the development and planning stages for The Probate Wizard, but the company will start trading when the system is launched this month.

Mr Hiskey came up with the idea for The Probate Wizard, when he was working as a solicitor.

He said: “I’d known Rob for a few years. I mentioned the idea to him. We were both looking for something a bit different and between us we had most of the skills needed to get it off the ground.”

Half a million people die each year in England and Wales, so it’s “a massive market”, said Mr Hiskey.

He added: “There’s no legal reason why you have to go to a solicitor [to carry out the probate process]. It’s either go to a solicitor or do it yourself. This is something in between. It links the two.”

To obtain the grant of probate, which is the official document usually required to complete the probate process, it will cost less than £400 via The Probate Wizard, said Mr Hiskey.

He added: “Most of it you can use for free or before paying. We have done that partly because it is vital people get a feel for it and trust what we are doing.”

The average minimum cost of instructing a solicitor to administer a £270,000 estate is £5,199, as reported by the Legal Services Board in July 2011.

Losing a loved one “is a very difficult time”, said Mr Hiskey, adding: “For a lot of people, their first reaction is to go to a solicitor. And for a lot of people that is fine. But more and more people are looking for an alternative.

“We do everything we can to try and make it as simple, easy and comforting as possible.”

By the end of the year, The Law Wizard hopes to launch a version of The Probate Wizard for professionals including probate solicitors, accountants and independent financial advisers.

He explained: “That’s going to be based on what we are doing now. We will brand the tool for a particular law firm giving them the opportunity to offer a different package for probate at a fixed price.” The company also hopes to attract investment to help it achieve its plans for growth, said Mr Hiskey.

He added: “Currently, it is part self-funded, part private loan and part overdraft.

“We are looking for angel investment probably. It would be investment with a view to growing the team.

“We would like to bring on at least two more developers and someone to help with marketing the professional system, and maybe someone to help with customer service, and possibly another lawyer.”

Next year, the plan is for the company to diversify further. Mr Hiskey said: “Next year we would hope to release at least one more wizard. The idea is that we will go into other areas of law, not just probate.”