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Clare Francis: Clear communication and transparency

Clare Francis’s first port of call for probate support was her parents’ accountant.

When Clare Francis’s mother died in 2017, she turned to chartered accountants Ward Williams to help her with the probate. The firm had dealt with her parents’ personal accounting and tax work for many decades, and she knew the people involved as she had dealt with them directly since her father had died suddenly seven years before.

That earlier death had left Francis suddenly responsible for winding up her father’s estate and having to take over the three family companies he had left behind – all while managing her own business, helping her mother and dealing with her husband’s terminal illness. “Dealing with probate myself wasn’t really an option,” she says.

Back in 2010 she had used her parents’ solicitors to do the probate. What made her chose Ward Williams the second time around? “I was aware that the firm offered probate services from their regular updates,” she says. “I also knew from that earlier experience that the solicitors had needed to go back to Ward Williams to ask many questions about valuations, tax, filing in the firms, and so on. It seemed more sensible to use the people who knew all the aspects of my mother’s portfolio and tax affairs and who would be dealing directly with HMRC rather than having to reinvent the wheel.”

She had also struck up a good working rapport with her Ward Williams contacts – something that she had felt was missing from that earlier probate experience. “Ward Williams was much more sympathetic to my circumstances,” she says. “There was much more opportunity for me to ask for help when needed, and there was far less jargon in the information that they sent me. When taking on my father’s probate, the solicitor didn’t explain that there were a number of things we could have done ourselves; in contrast, Ward Williams were clear from the start about the different options available to us and the associated costs of these options.”

This transparency from her accountancy advisers extended through the entire probate process, which Francis describes as clear, honest and straightforward. Her experience and good working relationship with her contact will result in Ward Williams dealing with the trust arising from Francis’s mother’s will. “The relationship in dealing with my parents’ tax has come to an end but the fact we are going to ask them to handle the trust speaks volumes about how we feel they dealt with the probate,” she says. “Personal relationships count for a lot in these circumstances and our relationship with Ward Williams is excellent.”