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Sole practitioner Huw Roberts: Building a probate practice

Authorisation for probate has changed the nature of Huw Roberts’s business.

Cardiff-based sole practitioner Huw Roberts had been an accountant for 30 years when he decided to apply for probate authorisation. He had helped close someone’s affairs and had enjoyed the work.

´When ICAEW announced its probate application I thought: I’m doing this,´ he says. Studying again after such a long gap was inevitably a challenge, but Roberts says he learned a lot from the SWAT course.

´By the time you’ve passed the exam, you’re ready to start work,´ he says. ´There’s a learning curve when it comes to the various forms involved, but you soon get the hang of it.´

The first year after he was authorised, probate and related services accounted for about 10% of Roberts’s workload. Just a few years later, the proportion is rising to nearly 40%. In addition to the probate work, many clients ask him to review their wills and inheritance tax position. Part of the reason for this growth is his clear passion for the service.

´You’re dealing with a family in grief and helping them. It is important to ensure that their financial matters are dealt with in a personal and professional manner,´ Roberts says.

Passion alone is not enough to get the service out in the public domain, and Roberts has dedicated a lot of effort to marketing. The main method that works for him is a monthly newsletter emailed to everyone on his mailing list, which covers tax and other financial matters as well as probate.

´This means I’m in front of the client 12 times a year, so they are constantly reminded of what I can do for them,´ he says. An up-to-date personalised website is essential to provide prospective clients with information on the services available. He recommends targeted local advertising. ´Build recognition of your firm as a probate practice in your local community.´

Practitioners who are serious about building a probate practice need to create time to build this new business line, Roberts advises. ´There’s always other work that needs attention. But you have to say, I’m going to spend the next three hours developing the probate practice.´ He credits his success to providing a professional service, promptly and at a competitive price. ´There are huge opportunities out there for firms that do this right. But above all, clients need to be made aware that the probate service is available.´