It is increasingly common now to see accountants expand their activities and services. Probate work is a logical progression for many firms and is often viewed as highly complementary to the usual offerings of estate management, wealth management and tax planning.

Complications arise, however, from the fact that insurers view the addition of probate work as a diversification of a firm's activities. This means firms must disclose such work to insurers and must acquire appropriate professional indemnity insurance that covers the new activities.

Competency and qualification

While any firm may apply for accreditation to carry out probate work, either as an 'authorised firm' or a 'licensed firm', insurers will always require confirmation that any practitioner engaging in such work has achieved the appropriate qualifications and training beforehand. Accountants looking to expand into this area can apply to either the ICAEW or ACCA, both of which are approved regulators for probate services, in order to obtain the relevant qualifications. Details of these can be found on their websites.

Once the necessary qualifications have been obtained, Lockton can provide practitioners with advice on how to best arrange cover for new probate activities.

In the main, extension of professional indemnity insurance is based around total income; if all partners and directors are qualified and if probate work represents no more than 10% of the firm's total income, professional indemnity insurance can usually be extended to include cover for probate work.

If probate work contributes more significantly to the firm's balance or the firm lacks qualified individuals, the business will usually form a separate company to carry out the probate work.  In most cases Lockton are able to arrange cover for this additional company under the existing professional indemnity policy.

Requisite limits

Lastly, it is important for firms to consider the requisite limit of indemnity required for their probate work. Under ACCA regulations, a minimum of £100,000 must apply to any one claim limit of indemnity. Under ICAEW regulations, a minimum of £500,000 per claim is required for authorised work.

A firm providing probate activities must also individually assess its exposure. The maximum possible exposure of a client and estate must be clarified; this is to ensure that the limit of indemnity in place is adequate should negligence or a failure to act occur.

Lockton's support

The Lockton team is available to help discuss and clarify your probate activities and your firm's professional indemnity cover. Contact us by phone at 0117 906 5057 or email us at ACCAaccountants@uk.lockton.com for more details.