Help and Guidance for finding a good Probate Solicitor
This is a question I sometimes get asked. It reminds me of when I visited schools to decide where my boys should go. When you aren’t familiar with schools it is so hard to pick the right one, and you can get seduced by having a good interview with the head, who may leave, or simply be good at impressing parents. If you were a teacher I’m told you would “get” the school simply by walking through the gates, but it’s not so easy for the rest of us.
It’s also difficult with solicitors. However here are some pointers:
• You must rate the person who is doing the work. The person you meet at the first appointment will not always do the work, but simply be a front man or woman who is good at impressing prospective clients. Ask who will actually do the work and make sure you talk to them.
• Ask specific questions and see if you understand the answers, and they make sense. Lawyers are not always the best communicators in the world.
• Are they a specialist? These days it is impossible to do a good job across a variety of disciplines. Particularly if the matter is complex or unusual – eg medical negligence, you must use a firm that has special expertise in that area.
• Even for more humdrum areas of work like Wills and Probate and conveyancing, a specialist has to be good, because their reputation stands or falls on what they deliver. Too often probate and conveyancing are “also ran” departments within a larger practice where the less good lawyers get parked.
• Check the fees out. If skyscrapers are built on a fixed quote it should be possible at the very least to provide a cost range within a fairly tight margin. Be wary of firms which charge a percentage of the value of the estate. It simply isn’t justified and solicitors have got away with it for too long.
• Efficiency is important in most legal work. This is harder to assess, but if the person fails to return your calls within a couple of days or makes small mistakes (eg forgets your name) that should give you some cause for concern.
• It’s a bonus if you like the person, particularly in sensitive areas where emotions are raw such as divorce and probate.
• Don’t feel you are under any obligation to the firm your family has used in the past. Most people think that following a death they have to use the firm which drew up the Will and has it in their safe. This isn’t true. What matters is that you can work with the person who is assigned to look after you now.