Simple Probate: app helps with protracted legal process of executing a will

Oisin Dolphin and Isabella Hughes cofounded company aimed at improving experience of being an executor

Isabella Hughes and Oisin Dolphin, co-founders of Simple Probate. "Serving as an executor of an estate can be overwhelming," says Hughes

Sorting out an estate when someone dies can be a sad and confusing experience for an executor and a time-consuming one for solicitors and their legal staff. There’s a mountain of documentation to be assembled and, having been through the process when his father died, Oisin Dolphin – who cofounded Simple Probate with Isabella Hughes earlier this year – knew the pain points from first-hand experience.

Simple Probate is a legal tech company focused on improving the experience of being an executor while freeing up time for legal professionals. It does so via an app which is purchased by legal practitioners who in turn offer it to their clients to help them navigate the process of executing a will.

The app is “white label”, meaning it assumes the law firm’s brand; as far as the client is concerned, it’s part of the service provided. The app will save solicitors roughly 50 per cent of the admin time they currently spend on executor-related issues.

“Serving as an executor of an estate can be overwhelming as the role can involve numerous tasks over an extended period, such as appraising assets, obtaining death certificates, freezing accounts, notifying social welfare, clearing property, managing insurance, and keeping beneficiaries informed,” Hughes says.

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“For solicitors and legal executives, helping an executor sort out an estate is not a good use of their legal knowledge or their time as they can often get bogged down in admin and simple queries. That said, they still need to be there to provide reassurance and guidance,” she adds.

“What the app does is to relieve a big chunk of the administrative burden by explaining to executors what their duties are and how to organise all the data related to the estate with their solicitor. It also covers key topics such as getting a property valuation, informing the bank that someone has died and getting a grant of probate.”

Dolphin is a software developer, so he had the technical skills required to design the app. What he didn’t have was the legal background and this is where a fortuitous meeting at an NDRC Founder Weekend paid off. Dolphin met Hughes, a law graduate who had served her time working probate cases, at the event.

Having heard Dolphin’s ideal for Simple Probate, Hughes put her own start-up on hold and the two joined forces to develop and launch the app, which has already been successfully trialled with a number of legal practices and is now live.

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The founders have not opted for a software-as-a-service (SaaS) revenue model. Instead law firms pay for use on a per-case basis. “A subscription wouldn’t really work because some firms might do five probate cases a year while another would do 50 and we wanted the app to be available to both. For early adopters the rate will be €200 per case. From 2025 it will be €500,” says Hughes, who adds that the app is scalable and can be adapted to suit all common law countries.

Hughes says the founders have been living on fresh air and their savings since starting the company in February. “We have taken bootstrapping to a new level by getting as much as we could for free, such as software to help build the app and the website and office space and mentoring from the Furthr Foundry’s pre-seed accelerator programme at the Guinness Enterprise Centre.”

The first outside money to come into the business will be the €15,000 stipend from Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme which Hughes is currently attending at TU Dublin. A third co-founder, John Noonan, has recently come on board; before joining Simple Probate he worked for Clio, one of the largest legal tech companies in the world. Later this year the founders are aiming to raise about €250,000 in pre-seed funding.