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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 and Complaints Process

Firms can choose to use their own formats for their engagement letters. 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.
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.

Recommended wording and related guidance used for compensation arrangements and the complaints process is included in the schedule for probate services. Please also 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. Engagement Letters Helpsheet – ICAEW has developed guidance for practice firms on what to include in engagement letters.

    The engagement letters helpsheet is separated into several parts and provides a series of sample wordings, including for Probate Services to address specific requirements of the ICAEW Code of Ethics, Probate Regulations and the complaints process.

    A complete engagement letter for probate services using that template will comprise:
    • an engagement letter (Part 1),
    • schedule of the service to be provided (Part 2) and
    • terms of business (Part 4).
  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.