Slow. The long-standing description and confirmed reputation of almost everyone’s experience with probate. Why? Because the court process, cases and litigants are all at the will (see what we did there?) of paper. From Trusts and death certificates to letters, affidavits and more, probate starts and ends with a paper trail of documents passed, seen and edited by litigants, attorneys, paralegals, judges, hospitals, real estate agents, and all other affiliated parties.
The irony of probate is that, despite being a highly pro se litigant-oriented process, it’s one of the most complex and confusing practices to navigate. An environment like this demands simplicity where possible and, simply put, paper doesn’t fit that bill. So we struck hard-copy filing and circulation from the probate record using OnBase by Hyland and called it The Paperless Probate Process.
What do you inherit when adopting paperless probate? Let’s take a look:
Digitally TransFORMed File Management
Not only do probate regulations vary from state to state, what is accepted as compliant is different for each court. Some offer filers pre-written options for answers, and others must be filled in by hand. A pain point for most court systems, this is especially true of probate courts whose files fall on the larger side.
Solve for the form-er pains of printing and tracking documents by digitalizing your entire data collection method with a forms designer and management tool. Not a one-size fits all approach, OnBase helps you design the best fit for each type of form, including official forms (hint: most courts have multiple form types). With rules-based processing, perfect indexing and secure, electronic data storage, electronic forms management mitigates risk for human error and immediately makes data workflow-ready.
But what about the hard-copy documents that need to be accounted for? Death certificates, originals Wills, petitions and applications, Patient Advocate Designations, Powers of Attorney and more, the entire paper trail must be accounted for. OnBase not only has you covered with multiple capture methods from virtually any source, including scanners, fax machines, email, or data streams, it also automatically folders and secures documents in a digital cloud or in your data center.
Keeping Probate in Motion
Like probate forms, every court has its own individualized rules for sharing information on different matters. Guardians must file annual reports that update the court on the condition of the ward. In addition to their Letters of Conservatorship, Conservators must also file annual accountings with the Probate Court detailing assets, income, expenses, etc.
With an automated, court configurable workflow in place, the individual rules for every court are accounted for and easily implemented. Automated records management ensures compliance with the destruction policy and, with a rules-based workflow in place, digital data exchange among attorneys, beneficiaries, court clerks, trustees, hospitals, and all other affiliated parties is one-click streamlined to the right hands in a matter of minutes.
Store in Trust
Much like how a Trust, a non-tangible account of assets and directions is generally more reliable than a hand-written last will and testimony, digital storage has become the accepted choice for secure record keeping. Not only does digital storage better protect sensitive information from natural disasters, fires, theft and fraud, it strengthens the court’s overall organization. Upon eFiling, data is automatically indexed and stored in the right folder. Coupled with a tool like eBench, Judges can swiftly access any of these documents, and any related documents, amidst trial with a quick keyed search of the database.
Everyone is a beneficiary of paperless probate. Not only does automated workflow, indexing and digital storage make locating and organizing files easier on court clerks, paralegals, creditors, and judiciaries, but processing cases at the most efficient pace possible brings clients closer to closure and allows grieving families, guardians, conservators and all affected parties to direct their attention where it’s most needed.
As a very specific and sensitive branch of probate, the nature of civil commitments necessitates a content system that stores electronic medical records while syncing hospitals, physicians, social workers, attorneys, judicial clerks, the public and all other appropriate parties in one secure, compliant environment.
Not only does OnBase serve as this dependable, cloud-based record repository, it upholds the integrity of every record, exhibit and report by also ensuring compliance, full audit trails and accurate, real-time reporting. When deployed in a HIPAA compliant manner, OnBase equips civil commitment proceedings with compliant forms, a complete audit trail of who accessed which court case files on what date, and transparent yet secure workflows that empower immediate, one-click reporting to all parties with security permissions.
These security functions are only enhanced when integrating OnBase with court case management systems (CMS), law enforcement’s record management systems (RMS), and judicial case management tools. Guaranteed to integrate with any NIEM compliant system and support the variety of multi-media content (i.e., video, audio, scanned documents, images, etc.) needed to exhibit, OnBase seamlessly connects to and streamlines all the information you need from various counties, districts and departments.
A Plan for Paperless Probate
As with estate planning, preparedness is crucial in staying current on the best, most efficient methods for serving and protecting the public, especially when children and vulnerable populations are concerned. Hard-copy recordkeeping and manual data entry and document circulation have never been optimal in protecting the integrity of files and sensitive information but, for a long time, it was the only way.
With a Paperless Probate Solution now at your fingertips (literally), access to justice has never been so close, efficient or secure.
Until recently, we had to keep every file and weren’t able to get rid of any paper. Our court was running out of storage space. Now that everything is scanned in, we can finally get rid of the paper and clear some storage space. Best yet, the judge will now manage hearings without any physical files because she’ll be on a computer, and we can quickly print off everything our customers need.”
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