The coronavirus lockdown has resulted in a slowdown in probate – the procedure for sorting out financial affairs following a death – according to a leading Carlisle law firm.
Wragg Mark-Bell paralegal Sarah Heal says enquiries are now picking up after a pause and wants to reassure families that help is at hand.
The Carlisle law firm is opening its doors for appointment-only meetings on probate and wills from June 15.
“I think one of the reasons enquiries have fallen is that there hasn’t been such good access to legal services during the lockdown and people aren’t sure what help is available,” says Sarah.
“I want to reassure people that we are here and although we are not open to the public in the usual way, we are working behind the scenes to keep things moving.”
Nationally probate – which involves identifying a dead person’s assets, paying off any debts and sharing out the remaining estate in accordance with the will – has been taking longer than the usual three or four months.
Hold-ups have included the need for surveys on properties, which were almost completely suspended under lockdown.
According to reports in the UK Law Gazette the number of applications for grants of probate to HM Courts & Tribunals Service has fallen by 50 per cent under lockdown, rather than rising as might have been expected as a result of coronavirus deaths.
“We have seen an increase in enquiries since the rules changed on selling houses,” said Sarah.
“I have been processing probate applications recently and although some of the responses from financial institutions have been a bit slower, companies have started to send information by email, when they wouldn’t have done previously.”
Wragg Mark-Bell will welcome its first clients into the office to discuss probate and wills matters only, initially.
Sarah said: “I have taken instructions by phone and that works quite well. But where clients do need to chat to me face to face, they will be able to.
“We are not opening to the public, but we will be here to see clients strictly by appointment.”
Sarah also offers an initial 30-minute free consultation.
“When someone dies, I have always given clients a free half hour on the phone or face to face.
“Some people need a bit of reassurance and then can deal with matters themselves. Others need help to go further. You are not committing yourself to anything by just coming in or ringing up for a chat.
“I suspect there are a lot of people at home wondering what they can do and perhaps worrying about things. But help is here.”