Case studies

Managing Expectations During Probate

By Estatesearch on May 28th, 2024

By James O’Toole, Solicitor, John Fowlers Solicitors.

The most common question I get asked during probate by beneficiaries is about understanding timescales. It is important to manage expectations in a professional and efficient way, while at the same time being compassionate and empathetic as we are always working with clients suffering through grief.  

Our goal is for our clients to remember the individual who has passed away and not be burdened with the administration element of probate.   Ultimately, the issue of probate also means we are able to distribute assets or assist in selling properties within the estate, which helps families gain closure and move on. 

Our probate team of four solicitors plus seven legal secretaries is one of our largest departments.  We have a substantial Will bank where much of our probate work originates from.  However, we also work with beneficiaries and executors both locally and across the UK who approach us directly.

An initial meeting is a time to talk about the process of probate and what to expect, then we inform beneficiaries with meaningful updates when milestones are reached.   We pride ourselves on our excellent client care and to achieve this we must first identify all the assets within an estate.  Therefore, early in the probate process we conduct a full Financial Profile Search through Estatesearch.  Even if executors don’t believe there are assets the family is unaware of, we suggest an asset search as a best practice approach. 

Previously, we might have had a steer from the family, then proactively written to each of the relevant financial institutions to establish what assets were held by the deceased.  However, this was time consuming and even in the best case, a family can never be entirely sure what assets are held.  It’s easy to forget an old pension pot or shares or these days, not to be aware of online accounts.   

Estatesearch’s Financial Profile search includes AML and Identity Trace, Liability Search and Financial Asset Search. In the Financial Profile Premium, it also includes Company Directorships and an Unclaimed Asset Search that includes up to 40 additional pension and insurance providers to help locate forgotten accounts, policies, and shareholdings within 30 days.

Estatesearch Financial Profile Search is a cost effective and efficient option which offers peace of mind that nothing has been overlooked. 

Several clients have been surprised and pleased when the search has discovered unknown accounts.  These have all contained relatively small amounts of money which have not impacted the IHT position.  However the searches demonstrate the importance of due diligence for us as a firm, as unravelling the situation in relation to IHT if a substantial asset was discovered at a later date, would be highly complex. 

We also use Estatesearch to place statutory notices, to undertake share valuations and for ID and bankruptcy checks.  We use Estatesearch’s free, secure online portal which means searches are seamless, easy and quick to order reducing the overall time spent and therefore, cost for the estate. 

We have even recently used Estatesearch’s Will Search in a difficult situation where one executor questioned the validity of an existing Will.  Without Estatesearch’s Will Search options would have been very limited to check if any later versions of the Will had been made. It meant we could remain professional and objective throughout a challenging matter.

We want to ensure that everyone is given the same level of excellent service and treatment and that we can guide and support clients through probate as professionally as possible.  Being able to work with Estatesearch is valuable, as a comprehensive asset search in addition to the add on searches speed up processes and ensure we can offer an efficient and seamless service for the benefit of our clients, making what is always a difficult time, a little easier.

Further information about John Fowlers

Originally published in, In Touch Magazine, 20th May 2024

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