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Raffingers: Thinking ahead

Firms taking on probate services need to be planning for long-term growth.

Nine-partner Essex-based firm Raffingers already offered services such as wealth management along with more traditional inheritance tax planning. This made probate a good choice to add to its portfolio, says partner Paul Dell.

‘It’s a natural progression for an accountancy practice, and is increasingly important as traditional compliance work becomes less valuable to clients,‘ he says. ‘Any firm that goes into this should assume that it will take a while for the practice to build up.‘

Most of the firm’s probate clients to date have been children of existing clients.

Estate values vary but many are within the £750,000 to £1,500,000 range, and can include UK property and assets as well as offshore assets. In most cases the firm has dealt with all the probate matters itself: in a couple it has worked with a friendly solicitor.

‘We have an informal arrangement with a firm that came to see us about taking on contentious work or if we needed legal assistance during the process,’ Dell says ‘There have been a couple of occasions where wills have been badly drafted so we asked them to deal with the deeds of variation and trusts set up under the will.’

Recently, Raffingers received a probate instruction from a legal firm. ‘The firm had lost its probate partner and needed someone to take a probate assignment on. We did the probate – and ended up achieving a 95% saving in inheritance tax for the client,’ says Dell.

Raffingers is already on track with its original projections of how much income it would be generating from probate services. But its eyes are very much on the longer-term prize.

‘In 10 years, accountants should have this market sewn up,’ Dell states. ‘Probate is a natural fit for us: a systemised process that is tax-based.

Dell was a sole practitioner before merging with Raffingers. Would he have considered probate if he were still in his own firm?

‘Absolutely. I don’t think there’s any real barrier to moving into probate. Because we have long-term relationships with clients, who better than us to be the first port of call? Getting the message out to your client base, perhaps via an email every few months, does not need an awful lot of resource once you’re up and running. Using us has to be the most efficient route for clients: we are better, quicker and cheaper than the competition.'