|Elmore County probate office develops major service upgrades|
|Written by News Desk|
|Thursday, 22 August 2013 10:05|
(L to R) Bridget Wilder and Shirley Moseley, employees in the recording department of the probate office, will be involved in new electronic filing procedure.
Photo: Special to The Indy
One of Probate Judge John Enslen's goals upon taking office in mid-January of this year was to take advantage of more modern technology in the probate office operations. "There are many potential uses for technology with respect to the various probate office operations and functions. We have only a couple of limitations," said Enslen. "For marriage licenses and drivers' licenses, I don't see a way around a personal visit to the probate office unless the law allows us to start doing that by skyping. But for almost everything else, there is no reason you could not do your probate office business in your pajamas while seated in front of your home computer."
Enslen says, for the past several months, he and his staff have been studying the available options with respect to the off-site recording of deeds, mortgages, and other legal documents by electronic means. Their research has led them to various vendors who provide the type of service they were seeking. "I don't want to give any one company a monopoly. Monopolies are not good for either the taxpayers or the consumers. Monopolies make prices go up, and the quality of service goes down when there is no element of competition. So we are opening the electronic filing to any of the emerging vendors authorized to engage in this business in Alabama."
Veteran probate office employee Linda Blankenship is happy with the new development: "Over time, electronic recording of documents will lessen some of the heavy demands on us, as well as provide a convenience for those who regularly submit documents for recording." Linda recently used modern technology to keep up with her indexing work while at home recuperating from knee surgery. "There's no telling how far I would be behind with indexing right now had I not been able to do my work remotely. You don't know how grateful I am that I have been able to work from home. With all the title searchers and abstracters depending on my 'good thru' date, I would have been so worried about letting them all down. I was about two weeks behind right after the surgery, but am now caught up and working on verifying some of the old marriages and military discharges."
The probate office will still receive documents, of course, by mail, courier service, runners, and individual walk-ins. But law firms, mortgage companies, abstractors, banks, lenders, and individuals throughout the world will be able to securely file documents through a web browser from the comfort and convenience of their offices.
When asked about cost, Enslen stated: "Since no county funds are required or used in the implementation of this new service, the added service did not require county commission funding approval.
This special service is paid for entirely by its users, who still have the option to record the old way if they prefer. The county general fund still receives the exact same recording fees that it would have received had the patron walked into the probate office to do the filing."
The price for the extra service that is charged by the vendor is very modest and less than the cost of a trip to the probate office, both in time and transportation cost. For example, the cost of recording a single document through e-recording, regardless of the number of pages, is $5.00. It is a win-win for everyone, and electronic filing will someday be the norm.
The probate office has initiated its first electronic recording of land record documents with Simplifile, a company which already conducts operations in 968 counties across the entire United States. Elmore County is the second county in the State of Alabama to implement Simplifile's electronic filing of documents. "Elmore County is just ahead of Shelby County which is next in line," says Simplifile representative Barbara McClean.
Shirley Moseley, who recently transferred from the licensing counter to the recording department in the probate office stated: "We tested the system to make sure that the software will accurately calculate, collect on the front end, and instantly deposit into our bank account the required fee payments. Bridget Wilder, our recording clerk, will be able to record an entire transaction at her desk in less than a minute, and she will not need to handle money or make out a receipt or mail back the documents."
The first document was received for recording in the Elmore County Probate Office on July 29, 2013. It was a mortgage release from the Balch and Bingham law firm in Montgomery. Negotiations are already taking place with other potential e-filing vendors so that customers will have a wide range of choices on which company to use.
"We eventually want to integrate the filing of documents with our existing electronic indexing system provided by Syscon so that there is one smooth flow of documents into our entire system. In that way researchers will have real time access to all of our documents," said Brent Helms, Enslen's chief clerk who has spearheaded the project.
Enslen said other technological advances that are presently in the works will be rolled out in the near future.
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