By Legal Futures Associate Exizent
Our latest Accountants blog series has looked at the untapped business opportunities offering probate can bring to many accountancy and tax advisory firms. This final instalment of our series evaluates best practices for introducing probate into your firm and tips on ensuring it’s success, along with a helpful probate guide which can be downloaded here.
Eligibility, scope of the accreditation and ongoing requirements
Since 2014, accountants have been able to apply for a licence to handle the full probate process, up until this time probate was typically handled by banks or solicitors. Given the combination of accounting, tax, law and administration skills required for probate, accountants are often well placed to carry out this kind of work.
There are a number of approved regulator and licensing authorities for probate services including ICAEW, ACCA and CiLEX. With many benefits of membership to your firm including having access to world-leading information resources, guidance, and local networks. Being listed with one of the licensing authorities will also bring you benefits in the form of clients, as you will be a trusted source for probate activity.
There are several questions surrounding the subject of probate including scope of accreditation, eligibility and ongoing requirements. ICAEW have provided a helpful FAQ for accountants which can be found here as well as a checklist to ensure your firm meets its regulatory or quality assurance requirements.
Getting your pricing right is imperative to attracting clients to use your services. From research you are likely to come across a few different pricing models.
Clients expect firms to be transparent about their costs and ideally display which pricing model they use on their website. During the probate process you should regularly update your clients on the final price if they aren’t being charged on a fixed fee basis.
The most common pricing models to consider are:
% Value of estate
This model was historically used by banks and although no longer as popular, it is still used by some banks and solicitors. Simply put, you would charge based on a percentage of the estate’s total value. The rate charged is usually between 1-5% and is quite often on the higher end for clients and can be quite expensive for them if for example they have a simple but large estate.
This means that a certain scope of services is included for a set price. Opting for a fixed fee package can be a good option as it gives clients a higher degree of certainty on the final cost, building that trust prior to the work being carried out. When advertising the fixed fee cost make it clear if this includes VAT and if there are any disbursements that will be charged at an extra cost.
This pricing model charges the client based on exactly how much time is spent. The rate charged can depend on who is undertaking the work, for example an experienced manager of the firm can charge a higher rate. This option means the client will only ever pay for the work that has been done but that as a firm you will need to be stringent on the time spent on each client’s case. This option is a good choice for clients who have uncomplicated case fees.
Dedicated probate platform
Innovative technology is allowing firms to perform complex transactions efficiently and at minimum cost, improving service for clients and helping to build a healthy probate offering.
Whilst considering probate as an additional service, you need to decide as a business how feasible it is and how much time it will consume for your team. This is where a dedicated probate platform like Exizent provides you with an abundance of advantages.
Automation of legal forms reduces the administrative burden on the professional, allowing them to spend more time on important value-added activities with their client. Our platform allows you and your team to capture all estate information in easy to navigate cases, adding details on people, assets, and liabilities. Through our secure document storage, you can also upload unlimited documents and use our expanding range of data searches to quickly populate missing information.
Our specialist probate software allows you to create workflows that minimise mistakes – export case data directly into court and tax forms with fields pre-populated, including PA1 forms, C1 forms (Scotland) and various IHT forms. All your cases and uploaded documents are archived securely for reference or further work.
By adopting dedicated probate software, you can get things right from the start. Reduce time that is spent on repetitive administration and lengthy data searches by creating and managing all your cases in one place, assigning members of your team to work together with more clarity and efficiency.
The benefits a probate software can provide for your new offering can assist in your pricing models and allow you to offer a competitive rate without the need for additional resources.
Marketing your probate offering
Marketing is an essential part of getting any new service off the ground. It’s important to make your current clients aware of your new services and attract new customers as well. However, it is advisable to remember probate is a sensitive area and should be offered rather than pushed onto people.
We have provided our top 10 tips to market your new offering:
- Market to your existing clients. Make sure to update your clients on any changes in your service offering and ensure all client-facing staff know about the probate and estate administration service, and that they can engage clients in a discussion before passing them to a probate practitioner.
- Generate regular client communications. Some firms use monthly newsletters to talk about general financial news and link this to their service offerings. Others add a brief paragraph about services to their annual letters.
- Make use of social media channels to promote your service range. Consider paid social advertising and using local forums.
- Make sure your website has a prominent description of your probate service and fee structure. Consider paid advertising to have your website listed prominently on search pages using probate keywords.
- Create press worthy articles. Showcase how your firm is different from others, highlight how your accountancy firm has extended their services into probate through the help of dedicated probate technology.
- Run seminars or create blog content on related topics, such as wealth management and estate planning.
- Market locally. Advertise with local newspapers regularly so potential clients get used to associating your name with probate and estate administration work.
- Consider all potential cross-marketing opportunities.
- Talk to third parties who may refer clients to you, for example IFA’s and will writers.
- Use your probate accredited logo e.g., ACCA, on your business cards, letterhead, website, and email signature.
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. We’ve provided a quick one-page Guide to help you on your way, click here to download.
Schedule a no-obligation call with a member of our team here to discover more about our innovative platform.