Tuesday, 11 January 2011

YOU PAY THE PIPER, YOU CALL THE TUNE Part 1

YOU PAY THE PIPER, YOU CALL THE TUNE
“If I can’t take it with me, I’m not going…”
Variously attributed to George Burns, and a host of other comedians, there is something about this old adage that chimes with those of us professionally involved in estate administration. The corollary is, presumably, “As long as I’m solvent, I’ll survive.” Would that it were so. Either way, as consumers, all of us tend to look for an attractive deal, whatever we’re buying, including estate administration services.
In general, people don’t mind paying for estate administration services. In general, people absolutely do mind open-ended fees and not knowing what a transaction is going to cost them. Increasingly, consumers look for a fixed-price service and prefer to know – to the penny – what they are going to be asked to pay for it, before instructing their service provider.
The status quo
The traditional model requires consumers to put faith in their service provider to (a) deliver the service to a high professional standard and (b) deliver value for money – although consumers are unlikely to know whether they’ve received value for money until after the final invoice arrives, if then. Although the days of calculating the fee by weighing the file are, thankfully, long behind us, many service providers resolutely prefer to offer a fee estimate, based on an hourly rate and / or a percentage of the estate’s value, notwithstanding increasing consumer demand for binding, fixed-fee quotations.
Who’s in charge? The consumer!
If you accept the proposition that The Consumer Calls The Tune (and if you don’t, you should probably stop reading here…), it makes perfect sense to offer a pricing model that provides a straightforward, transparent price quotation, guaranteed not to increase.
Estate administration lends itself well to a fixed-fee approach. Although each estate will differ from others on its facts, its administration will comprise a number of discrete tasks, all of which must be completed before the file can be closed.
Varying degrees of complexity
Some estates will be very straightforward to administer – perhaps the consumer will only require assistance with the extraction of the grant of representation. Others will be highly complex and may present a welcome challenge to the most experienced estate administration professional. Whichever, it’s easy enough to quote the correct price for administering either, as well as for every other on the spectrum of complexity.

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