Who we are
Probaters and Probaters.com are trading styles of ACT Legal Limited (“the Company”) of Stanford House, South Road, BN1 6SB. In these terms of business “we” or “our” refer to the Company. These terms of business govern only our probate services and not any other services provided by the Company.
Your relationship is solely with the Company, and the Company has sole legal liability for the work done for you and for any act or omission in the course of that work. No director, consultant or employee of the Company will have any personal legal liability for that work whether in contract, tort or negligence. In particular, the fact that an individual member, consultant or employee signs in his or her own name any letter or other document in the course of carrying out that work does not mean he or she is assuming any personal legal liability for that letter or document.
We value our relationship with you and welcome any suggestions for its improvement. We will not appoint an agent or subcontract our work to anyone else without your consent.
Our offices are open from 9.00am to 5.00pm on weekdays (excluding bank holidays). We will, however, always endeavour to be available outside those hours as need arises.
Our task is to obtain for you as executor or administrator a grant of probate or letters of administration. If you wish we can for an additional fee collect in the assets of the estate, pay debts and then distribute the estate.
Who does your work
Work will be done by those able to do it competently and cost-effectively. They will be appropriately supervised. We will agree with you who handles your work and not make changes unless it is necessary – to bring in specialist help, for example, or while someone is on holiday. We will inform you if this happens.
We have a duty to act on your reasonable instructions, subject to our legal and professional duties as solicitors. We will keep you regularly informed of progress. Our relationship is with you, and we owe a duty of care only to you. No other person may rely on our advice or on these terms without our prior written agreement.
Grant only service: we will prepare the papers to lead to a grant of probate or letters of administration. We rely entirely on you to provide us with accurate information. We do not check or verify such information and the responsibility for the administration of the estate is yours alone.
Despite our best efforts we may make a mistake, by which we mean any breach of our duties to you. If we do, and are liable to compensate you, you agree that our liability is limited in the following respects:
- it is the Company that is liable, not an individual director or member of staff; you agree to make no claim against an individual except for fraud. You and we intend that this clause is for the benefit of, and shall be enforceable by, the directors and staff under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999;
- our maximum liability for any mistake (except for fraud) is £3 million including contractual and statutory interest (unless we agree a different amount with you in writing);
- this overall limit applies whether the mistake affects just one piece of work we do for you or several, so long as it is the same or a similar mistake;
- for the purpose of the overall limit, more than one mistake on a matter or transaction is considered as one mistake;
- we are liable for loss that we directly cause and for any indirect or consequential loss or loss of anticipated profit or other benefit, where that total liability does not exceed £3 million. Otherwise we have no liability for any indirect or consequential loss or loss of anticipated profit or other benefit;
- we are not liable to the extent that our mistake results from something you do or fail to do (such as giving us the wrong information, or not giving us information at the time we ask for it);
- if others are also responsible for your loss, our liability is limited to our fair share of the proportion which is found to be fairly and reasonably due to our fault, whether or not you are able to recover the rest from the others. We shall not be liable to pay you the proportion which is due to the fault of another party. This clause is subject to the minimum £3 million restriction on limiting liability prescribed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority;
- we shall not be liable for any loss arising from or connected with our compliance with any statutory obligation which we may have, or reasonably believe we may have, to report matters to the relevant authorities under the provisions of the money laundering legislation;
- we believe the limitations on our liability set out in this section are a reasonable amount having regard to our assessment of:
the amount of any likely liability to you if we make a mistake;
- the availability and cost of professional indemnity insurance; and
- possible changes in the future availability and cost of insurance;
but we are happy to discuss the limit with you if you consider it insufficient for your purposes, and if appropriate we may then consider whether we are able to provide a higher limit at extra cost.
These limits apply to the extent that they are permitted by law. We cannot, for example, avoid full liability if our mistake causes death or personal injury. If any part of this section of our terms which seeks to limit liability is found by a court to be void or ineffective on the grounds that it is unreasonable or does not accord with any professional obligation, the remaining provisions shall continue to be effective.
If you think we have made a mistake we have no liability for any breach of our duties to you unless you let us know in writing about the mistake within 24 months of becoming aware of it, and start any legal proceedings about it within 12 months of giving us that written notice.
We will keep confidential all information about you and your affairs and not disclose it to anyone outside the Company without your consent. You do consent to that disclosure:
- in the proper handling of your work;
- on a confidential basis to auditors who make random checks of files;
- to our professional indemnity insurers;
- where compelled by professional regulations or by law, such as a court order;
- on a confidential basis to any external provider of administration services.
If we are compelled to disclose information, or if you ask us to object to disclosure, we may charge for the work involved.
Any personal details that we use to provide or promote our services to you will not be passed to any third party organisation for marketing purposes without your permission.
Probaters complies with the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 in the United Kingdom. We respect the privacy of personal email accounts and we store your email address as securely as any other personal information we hold. We will not send you unwanted email messages or junk mail and your details will not be passed to any organisation outside Probaters without your permission. We may use email to send you messages to keep you up to date with news about our services either online or through other contact with Probaters.
We both agree not to issue any publicity material or information to the media about our relationship and the work we are doing without the other’s consent, save where the information is already in the public domain.
We routinely use email to communicate, and whilst we have normal levels of security in place, you accept the risk that email communications may not be secure.
Money laundering activity and proceeds of crime
You accept that we must comply with the law and professional rules about money laundering and proceeds of crime. We have to check the identity of all clients. We subscribe to an on-line identity verification service and we may use this to satisfy ourselves as to your identity. In most cases this service will enable us to confirm your identity without requiring documentary evidence such as passports. We will notify you in advance if we intend to use this service. A small administration charge will be payable. We will not be able to receive any money from you or pay it on until we have confirmed your identity.
We also have to report, without telling you, any activity that we suspect may involve the proceeds of crime. We may in some circumstances have to stop acting for you as a result of the money laundering legislation.
The proceeds of crime are defined very widely and include, for example, money gained as a result of unlawful tax avoidance or through the evasion of payment of any similar charges or duties. Our duty to report may override any duty of confidentiality that we owe to you, and legal professional privilege (your right to refuse disclosure of documents relating to advice given to you) may not apply in these circumstances.
We also follow Law Society guidelines and restrict the amount of cash that we are prepared to receive from clients. Our limit is currently £500. However, if you exceed this limit by depositing cash direct with our bank we reserve the right to charge for any additional checks we deem necessary regarding the source of funds.
We comply with the current law on data protection. We store and process information about our clients in the context of our business. We are able, in most circumstances, to supply you on request with copies of the information which we store about you.
You accept that to enable us to comply with our obligation to check your identity, to make credit decisions about you and to prevent fraud we may search the electoral roll and the files of credit reference agencies who will record any credit searches on your file.
Our current fee as displayed on our website applies to acting for you in your capacity as executor or administrator of an estate which is not subject to inheritance tax and where HMRC form 205 can be used; and which does not fall within the exceptions referred to in the following paragraph. Our fee does not include disbursements.
Exceptions and disbursements
We reserve the right to charge a higher fee for estates having a gross value in excess of £600,000 and estates which include foreign property, business assets, farm land or 15 or more individual investment holdings.
In addition to our fee we will charge all third party expenses (commonly called disbursements) including: probate registry (except for our grant only service) and other government charges, advertisements for creditors (if necessary), charges made by property and asset valuers, and financial asset search fees. We ask you to pay us £500 on account of such expenses before we start work on your probate application. The money can usually be refunded to you as soon as probate has been obtained and assets collected.
Our fee does not include the conveyancing or transfer of any properties included in the estate.
Transfer of money
Where we have to transfer money on your behalf we cannot to so until the money has cleared the banking system. If the money has not been cleared we will not make the payment for you. We may charge you an administration fee for money transfers made on your behalf.
Our current fee for our grant only service as displayed on our website includes VAT. Otherwise, VAT is payable on fees and expenses at the applicable rate. Our VAT registration number is 812 3292 57.
Money we hold
We may pay any outstanding invoice by deduction from money we hold on your behalf (including money received from others). We follow the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s rules in deciding whether interest is payable on money that we hold on your behalf.
Invoices must be paid within 14 days. If not, we may charge interest on the overdue amount. Interest will be charged on a daily basis at the official rate payable on judgement debts (which is usually close to standard commercial rates) and we may also be entitled to:
- recover any costs we incur in collecting the overdue amount;
- do no further work for you until we are paid in full (or we may choose not to do any further work for you at all);
- retain all papers until we are paid in full.
If you have a query on an invoice, please discuss it as soon as possible with the person who is dealing with your work. If you are not satisfied, please follow the procedure outlined under “Complaints” below.
Papers and Documents
We will retain your deeds, securities and other important documents, as long as you want us to, in a secure storage area under our control. We will keep other papers for six years from the date of the final invoice and then destroy them.
We will make a single charge, currently £30, for storage of title deeds and securities. We do not normally charge for storage of other documents, where we continue to work for you.
Where you require urgent delivery of documents or deeds with us we will pass on to you the charge to us, currently £45. We do not presently charge for non-urgent delivery.
Holding your money
If we hold money on your behalf, we will place it in a bank account (“client account”) designated for clients’ money that meet the requirements of the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules. Our main bankers are HSBC Bank PLC, but we may hold accounts with other banks from time to time and we will provide details on request.
It is unlikely that we will be liable for losses resulting from a banking failure. If you suffer loss of money held in our client account due to failure of the bank and we make a claim on your behalf under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) we will, subject to your consent, give certain information about you to the FSCS to help them identify amounts to which you and other clients are entitled.
The FSCS indemnity is available to individuals only. You should note that the £85,000 FSCS indemnity limit applies to each individual. Accordingly, if you hold other money in the same bank the limit will be £85,000 in total (i.e. your other money will be aggregated with the money we hold for you in that bank). Remember that some deposit taking institutions have several brands or trade names. The £85,000 limit applies per institution, not to each brand. You should check either with your bank, the Financial Services Authority or a financial adviser for more information.
Investments and Financial Services
We are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, but we are not authorised to advise on financial and investment matters. We may therefore have to refer you to someone who is authorised.
Equality and Diversity
We are committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of our dealings with clients, third parties and employees.
If you are unhappy about any aspect of the service you have received you should contact the personal dealing with your case in writing or by telephone with full details of your complaint. We will investigate the matter promptly and thoroughly and provide a written response. We will also provide a copy of our complaints procedure on request. If you are still unhappy, you should refer the matter to our Senior Director, Alan Thompson, who will review the handling of your complaint and report back to you in writing.
Our directors are solicitors qualified in England and Wales. We are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The SRA's professional conduct rules can be viewed here.
Declining to act
We may decline to act in any particular probate. No contract will exist between us and you until we have confirmed in writing our acceptance of your instructions.
Ending our Relationship
You may ask us to stop acting for you at any time. If so, please confirm in writing. We may choose to stop acting for you, but only if we have good reason to do so (for example, if you do not give us instructions, or do not make a payment when due, or if a conflict of interest arises) and we will give you as much notice as we can. If we stop acting for you we are still entitled to be paid for what we have done, and may keep your papers until we have been paid.
These terms and our relationship will be governed by English Law. We each submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.