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Letters of engagement

Firms authorised or licensed to carry out probate services must make their clients aware of the compensation arrangements and complaints process. Where the firm is providing probate and/or estate administration services, it must include a paragraph on the compensation arrangements. In the case of the complaints procedure, this should be applied for both legal and non-legal services.

Probate Compensation Arrangements

In accordance with Probate Regulation 3.7, accredited probate firms shall ensure that clients are advised in writing of the compensation arrangements at the beginning of the engagement.

It is recommended that firms use the following paragraph:

‘In the unlikely event that we cannot meet our liabilities to you, you may be able to seek a grant from ICAEW’s Probate Compensation Scheme. Generally, applications for a grant must be made to ICAEW within 12 months of the time you became aware, or reasonably ought to have become aware, of the loss.'


If a client makes a complaint to your firm, it must be dealt with within eight weeks. If a complaint is unresolved after this time, your client can refer it to the Legal Ombudsmen (LeO).

LeO is an independent and impartial scheme set up to help resolve legal service disputes. The service is free to consumers. LeO can investigate complaints about claims management companies, solicitors, barristers and accountants regulated for probate services.

The complaints process information you need to include in an engagement letter will depend on the services you are offering your client. Please read the following documents which explain what to include:

  1. Case scenarios – these will guide you on the approach LeO will take when considering a complaint about a legal service provider accredited by ICAEW. 
  2. Required wording for engagement letters – this guidance document explains what you need to include in an engagement letter. The exact words will depend on the services you are offering your client in the letter of engagement.
  3. Decision path document – this will help your firm assess the correct content to include in the engagement letter. Please use this in conjunction with the guidance document (point 2 above).

Consumer experience – engagement letters

Joint initiative research project – November 2016

ICAEW and other legal regulators in summer 2016 commissioned a piece of research to examine the consumer experience of engagement letters in the legal services market. A report summarising the findings was issued November 2016 providing a useful insight into how firms can improve their interaction with clients.

Although we believe the current guidelines and advice we provide are consistent with the preferred practice outlined in the report, there are some stylistic and presentation elements that might be worth further consideration and these will be reviewed. ICAEW will be issuing further guidance based on this report in due course.