“I have been using Probate Plus for over 10 years and have found it to be a very effective work tool. Without it I would have been unable to administer a number of high value and multiple asset estates during this period. I cannot recommend it too highly as a system for the efficient delivery of Probate and related matters. If practitioners are to remain competitive in a tighter market access to a technologically sophisticated support like Probate Plus will be essential.”
Michael Armstrong, Eccles Heddon LLP, Thirsk
Celia Fraser is Customer Support Manager of Law Systems Ltd.
In a market which is increasingly competitive, probate practitioners need to arm themselves with the best tools to help them complete the job, quickly and efficiently. In a deregulated arena, new players are entering the scene, offering cheaper services and forcing a rethink from many who may have been working in the field for years.
Solicitors can no longer assume that their administration practices, when handling even the simplest of estates, are up to muster. And whilst creating an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of a deceased person’s disparate pools of cash and other assets may have felt innovative to some ten years ago, doing so now is akin to relying on the dangers of using pen and paper, with its inherent risk of errors and unnecessary time spent in presentation and cross-referencing with other data. Over time, spreadsheets (created by individuals who may have since left the firm) can become a time-bomb. Furthermore, no-one wants to waste un-billable time on processes which can easily and efficiently now be automated.
Probate Plus from Law Systems Ltd is the leading specialist software for Windows operating systems, to assist in the administration of a deceased’s estate, production of related forms or letters, documents and estate accounts. It helps individuals working on a matter, but is also invaluable for those keen to establish a consistent approach across a practice. If colleagues collaborate or have to pick up the workload of others when on holiday or off sick, quickly evaluating the stage which any particular matter has reached, can save hours of time and effort.
“Probate Plus takes all the faff and stress out of dealing with accounts and preparing the Estate Accounts. It does all the hard work for you in a fraction of the time it would have taken!”
Sara Whittle, Griffith Smith Farrington Webb LLP, Brighton
Handling a typical estate
To give you an idea of how all encompassing and user friendly the Probate Plus system is, we’ll illustrate the main areas of efficiency which this long established and proven system can bring to the handling of the various stages of a typical estate.
At the outset of dealing with a newly presented administration, Probate Plus prompts you to enter as much detail as you can about the estate’s beneficiaries, assets and outstanding debts, as shown in the picture at the top of this Feature. You will get this from various sources – from paperwork handed over from relatives or from your own enquiries. The great thing about Probate Plus is that you can update or amend anything at any stage . For instance, you can estimate pre-death liabilities until you know the accurate figure. Moreover, just change any typos or inaccuracies if you spot them.
As time goes on you will add in more detail as and when you receive it. And as post-death transactions occur, such as the receipt of income on an asset, this can be recorded.
There may be post-death admin expenses or distributions of assets which need to be recorded. You will need to keep track of cash coming in and out of the estate. The money flowing between in-house or external banks, stockbroker accounts, or handled by other third parties, can be entered into Probate Plus and then reconciled as and when statements are received. Probate Plus keeps everything clearly separated out and accounted for so that you don’t lose track of where the cash currently resides and who will eventually need paying. Reports can be generated at any stage. To be filed, emailed or posted to interested parties. Reports might consist of a simple summary of, for example, any admin expenses so far incurred. Or they could consist of a full set of interim, or eventually final, estate accounts.
Once a certain amount of detail has been entered, Probate Plus can also help complete HMRC IHT forms such as the IHT205 or IHT400. Again, saving huge amounts of hitherto possibly un-billable time.
The software comes with a set of optional template letters which you can use or adapt to correspond with parties such as banks, stockbrokers, debtors, creditors, tax offices, beneficiaries etc. Financial or address book details can automatically be populated within an opened document, to save time retyping details which you have already entered into Probate Plus.
Providing bills, receipts and interim distributions are regularly recorded, the system will automatically do all the necessary financial calculations for you; leaving you to get on with managing the process rather than doing the sums or worrying about the presentation of the figures.
At any stage during administration, the software allows you to produce interim or final accounts, helps you to complete the HMRC IHT forms or write to anyone connected to the estate.
Eventually all debts will be shown as settled, legacies paid out, bank accounts closed, assets realised and final distributions to beneficiaries shown.
As you will see from the demonstration above, software doesn’t need to be complicated or take long to pick up. It can streamline your probate processes and help you avoid time-wasting errors and endear you to clients because you can easily keep them updated along the way.
If you’ve been practising in this area for many years but never used something like Probate Plus, you may have created favourite ways of working through your matters and be reluctant to change. However, your practices don’t necessarily have to alter greatly. Probate Plus is totally flexible and user-friendly. You’re not forced into using it in a narrow step-by-step regimented way. You can add and remove information as and when you can or want to.
We recommend using Probate Plus to keep track of the entire process of administering the estate. We think it would be a waste of the full potential of using the software if you didn’t, but some users do wait until they’re winding up an estate and just use it to produce a final set of accounts. On the other hand, others widen the use of the software and use it for the management of LPAs – something which is extremely easy to do.
Probate Plus is designed to grow with you. The cost effective pay-as-you-go pricing means there are no large up-front fees and it’s easily scalable from single to multiple users.
Celia Fraser is Customer Support Manager of Law Systems Ltd. Law Systems are the developers of Probate Plus, the market leaders for the past 20 years in probate administration software. Probate Plus allows you to keep the administration under control from day one and in a consistent manner for all your fee earners across your practice. It has a central store to record all information relating to the matter as it arises which is essential if you are to keep the accounts balanced at all times. The production of interim, final accounts and cash balancing at the press of a button makes this piece of software an invaluable addition to any practice or anyone involved in winding up estates. Download your free evaluation now from www.lawsystems.co.uk.