Removing financial burden that comes with administrating an estate makes for smoother process, better experience
This article was produced in partnership with BridgePoint Financial.
Mallory Hendry of Canadian Lawyer sat down with Cindy Williams, Vice President, Risk Assessment & Client Relations at BridgePoint, to discuss a common pain point for trusts & estates lawyers and their clients – and how BridgePoint can help.
Estate and inheritance claims can take months or even years to complete and managing the associated costs during that time can be a significant challenge for executors or trustees administrating the estate. Including legal and accounting fees, probate and court fees, potential funeral expenses, valuation and appraisal fees, mortgage payments, maintenance fees, property taxes, insurance and utilities, the expenses can be extensive.
For lawyers working with clients in this situation, there is an option to get clients off the hook: a BridgePoint Inheritance Advance, specifically designed for trusts and estates lawyers and their clients.
“In so many cases an estate is asset rich but cash poor, leaving the executor or trustee having to pay out of pocket,” says Cindy Williams, Vice President, Risk Assessment & Client Relations at BridgePoint Financial. “The main feature of our advance is to remove that immediate financial burden, so they don’t have to deplete their own financial resources in order to administer the costs of the estate.”
Informing an executor or trustee client about an option such as BridgePoint’s Inheritance Advance is a good tool for lawyers because, ultimately, it helps move estate probate forward. From $5,000 to cover probate fees that must be paid upfront – ensuring the lawyer doesn’t have to make a special application to the court to submit material without payment, causing delay and added expense – to $50,000 advances to cover longer-term estate expenses, BridgePoint offers trusted and affordable financing solutions and the process is “quite seamless,” Williams says.
Unlike banks, BridgePoint doesn’t rely on the person’s personal credit or standing, because their assessment is based on the value of the estate. The BridgePoint team obtains most of the required information directly from the executor, keeping the solicitor’s involvement in the loan process as minimal as possible, and once the assessment is complete, they are usually able to fund the executor within 24 hours – a far cry from a 9–12-month average wait time.
With a BridgePoint Inheritance Advance, the executor or trustee doesn’t pay anything until the estate is finalized and ready for distribution, and BridgePoint doesn’t just issue the loan and disappear, they go above and beyond to help the person navigate the process. The experienced team understands that the executor or trustee is often a member of the family or a close family friend who’s also dealing with their own grief. It’s a unique dynamic, Williams notes, and a key differentiator is how BridgePoint treats the client with empathy, building a true rapport and crafting customized solutions that speak to their individual situation. Coming from a place of deep expertise, the BridgePoint team develops strategic solutions that work in the client’s best interest, such as offering the loan at an earlier stage so that it comes off the top as an expense of the estate.
“We structure our loans to best suit the needs of the estate. For example, if they only need enough money for the probate fees we offer a single lump sum, but if they’re paying ongoing expenses of the estate, a better option may be a line of credit so they can draw funds as needed and aren’t incurring unnecessary loan costs,” Williams says. “As opposed to only having a single option, they’ve got a variety of options with us.”
As closely as they work with the executor or trustee, BridgePoint also works with the lawyer to ensure the advance won’t be an unnecessary or excessive financial burden to the estate itself. For example, if certain expenses can be deferred until after the client has access to funds, there’s no need to take an advance from BridgePoint. Again, Williams points to the fact that not everything is templated and instead “we work with that executor and the lawyer for what works best for them with that particular estate.”
Williams notes that alleviating financial pain points for executors and trustees has a positive impact on the relationship with their lawyer and can lead to better experience overall. BridgePoint collaborates with law firms to dovetail their services according to what works best within the firm’s practice when they’re referring their clients. BridgePoint is committed to working with both lawyers and executors to provide solutions for those who need financial relief following the loss of a loved one. It’s fundamentally an access to justice issue and that’s what defines BridgePoint’s business when it comes to the financial assistance they offer.
“You have to wonder how many estates exist that haven’t been fully dealt with because the executor can’t afford to retain a lawyer, and that’s one of the things this money can be used for,” Williams says, adding it’s also another benefit for the lawyer – not having to turn away an estate file because the person doesn’t have retainer funds.
“The greatest benefits of an inheritance advance are found in the many ways our product helps streamline things, making it a much smoother process overall – and we’re always evolving,” she says. “Our experienced team has a thorough understanding of the situation and can provide bespoke options to suit each client, each estate and every lawyer.”
Since 2002, BridgePoint Financial has been the pioneering force in developing Canada’s litigation finance market. As the only full service provider of innovative funding solutions for plaintiffs, lawyers and the experts involved in advancing legal claims, BridgePoint’s goal is to level the litigation playing field and to protect clients’ rights to full and fair access to justice.