Farewell to a law firm’s trailblazing online probate service

05 Sep 2014

Prob8.co.uk is offline. If you haven’t heard of it, let me explain why it was noteworthy, and why it inspired me while I helped to develop Probate Wizard in 2011.

It wasn’t powered by revolutionary, or even particularly powerful, technology. However, it was a rare example of an online probate service from a law firm that was:

  • Consumer-centric
  • Relevant
  • Well-designed
  • Well-executed

Prob8 Image credit: Hallmarkdesign.

Prob8.co.uk was also a trailblazer. It launched to consumers in February 2010, long before the likes of Probate Wizard hit the market (the firm behind the service, Kent-based Whitehead Monckton, had it in mind since 2007).

It offered a sensible, well constructed, step-by-step, fixed fee probate package to consumers, at a time when online and fixed fee were rare things indeed – particularly from law firms. The branding and user experience were top notch – it was intuitive, fast, modern and professional. It appeared at or near the top of search results for probate-related terms for many years.

Prob8 was a bold project for a law firm. It took vision to recognise that an outsider’s input (in this case, design consultancy Hallmarkdesign), money, patience and a fresh, fixed fee approach to probate services were required.

That meant, to a large degree, separating the lawyers from the process of building the service – sometimes a tricky proposition within solicitor practices.

Its longevity was testament to the consumer-focused, commercial outlook of the lawyers and others in the Whitehead Monckton team (I was lucky enough to get to know some of then during my time at The Law Wizard).

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the prob8.co.uk domain is no longer live and the service no longer features in search results. I suspect the technology wasn’t powerful enough to make the process sufficiently efficient to be viable at a competitive price-point, because, for example, it was unable to compile probate and tax forms, which had to be completed by hand by the WM team.

Ultimately, it seems, the Prob8 model wasn’t quite right. However, it was an innovative service, well thought through and well executed – in many ways, a blueprint for other law firms to follow.

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