Why accountants are well positioned for providing the service
Many accountants offer estate administration services but will pass their clients to a solicitor for probate services. This is a service often overlooked by many accountants and a potential follow-on service that hasn’t been considered.
With the ability to conduct non-contentious probate, it enables accountants to provide a seamless service to their clients, which in most cases can be faster and cheaper than that of banks and lawyers.
A recent study from Direct Line identified that only 24% of Brits would consider contesting a will of a loved one. This highlights a significant market for non-contentious probate and whether they are the bereaved family accountant or tax adviser they could be providing further service in the form of probate.
Having built a relationship with their clients already, trust for that individual and practice has been established. Many clients are reassured that they are in good hands and prefer to continue this difficult and stressful bereavement journey with familiarity. As outlined within Exizent’s recent Bereavement Index Report, 94% of people found at least part of the bereavement process stressful and 39% of law firms found that within half of their bereavement cases, the clients needed emotional support from someone within their firm.
There are several practical and financial benefits to the client in using a tax adviser or accountant for probate services.
First and foremost, by already having a good understanding of the deceased’s assets and tax liabilities will enable the process to be dealt with as quickly as possible with limited involvement of additional people. Our research indicated 37% of accounts are not known at the start of the probate process and 60% of law firms said less than half of their clients have all their affairs in order.
By providing a full life service, accountants or tax advisers are reducing the time spent on locating accounts and can ensure their clients have their affairs in order.
Additionally, accountants or tax advisers are aware and comfortable with the tasks surrounding a grant of probate with many of the required outputs being second nature to their line of work, for example accounts, assets, liabilities and tax calculations.
Finally, providing probate services also lends its hand to the additional opportunity to undertake inheritance tax planning for the future.
Probate work can provide firms with an excellent business opportunity to provide a whole life service to their existing clients and attract new ones.
While more than a third of us will be involved in the administration of someone’s estate at some point in our lives, overall knowledge of the process is still low.
From Exizent's recent findings within the Bereavement Index, we asked 1,200 people a series of true or false questions about probate and the responsibilities of an executor - and none got them all right. This lack of awareness around what the bereavement process entails could well be one of the main reasons why so many people become stressed when dealing with the administrative side of loss.
Of those surveyed who have been through the probate process as an executor, the experience has made them determined to do what they can to make the process easier for whoever is left with the administration around their own death.
For example, people who have dealt with probate themselves are 58% more likely to have organised an executor of their own will and are also more likely to have chosen someone other than their partner to do it, suggesting that those who did deal with administering the estate of a loved one would not want to inflict that experience on their other half.
It is this lack of knowledge that makes accountants or tax advisers, who have already invested in building trusted and strong relationships, a logical choice for their clients to handle all elements of probate, at what is likely to be a difficult time.
Entering the probate market can bring many advantages, some of which can be seen through Exizent’s Benefits of Probate blog, and the implementation of specialist probate software eases the process for the accountants or tax advisers. Exizent is specially designed for professionals and teams managing probate; our platform helps streamline inefficient and costly processes, and increase profitability with easier estate management and case administration.
Through our cloud-based platform, you and your team can start your probate journey, without the need for intensive training or complicated configuration.
Jessica Metelski, Exizent
ACCA's information hub on probate training, support and regulations