Code of Practice
Chapter 22. Probate
The Principles contained in Practice Rule 4 underpin the conduct and expectations of all notaries carrying out probate activities as a notary. The following guidance must be read in conjunction with the Master’s Rulesand this Code of Practice.
All notary-probate practitioners must comply with the Practice Rules insofar as those rules apply to probate activities. Consideration must also be given to the guidance contained in this Code of Practice.
The following Chapters have sections that relate specifically to notary-probate practitioners:
Chapter 10 – Accounts
Chapter 14 – Continuing Professional Education
Chapter 16 – Inspections
Chapter 18 – Record Keeping and File Storage
Chapter 19 – Supervision
Notary-probate practitioners should also refer to the following special section of the Code:
Matter Guidance (Probate)
It is strongly recommended (but it is not a requirement) that notary-probate practitioners consider becoming members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (‘STEP’) – at full membership level, keep up to date with current practice and refer to the transaction guidance offered by STEP. It is also recommended that notary-probate practitioners are aware of and follow the Law Society Wills and Inheritance Protocol.
Best practice for a notary-probate practitioner will include putting in place procedures and policies to ensure that work is of a consistently high level and examples of possible policies would be, but are not restricted to:
- A file-management policy and system
- A systematic policy for taking and accepting clients’ instructions
- Pro-forma client details form
- Client care policy
- Letter of terms and conditions incorporating signposting notice
- Notary-probate practitioners provide a competent and complete probate administration service for clients.
- When dealing with a client, notary-probate practitioners are competent, efficient, professional and recognise that they will often be dealing with clients who are vulnerable (see Chapter 8 – Equality of Opportunity and Respect for Diversity).
- Notary-probate practitioners have a clear file management system with policies to ensure that staff are aware of record-keeping requirements.
- Notary-probate practitioners’ records are kept in accordance with applicable legislation and the Master’s Rules, and with due regard to the recommendations in this Code of Practice (see Chapter 18 – Record Keeping and File Storage).
- Clients receive a full letter of engagement including your terms and conditions and all signpostinginformation in connection with complaints at the outset.
- Clients receive a clear indication of the work to be carried out by you together with a clear estimate of costs and disbursements and timescale for completion of the work, where appropriate.
- You hold a professional indemnity insurance policy that sufficiently covers any probate administration work undertaken by you so that a client would be adequately covered in the event that recourse to the insurance cover were necessary.
- You maintain your records in a well organised manner in accordance with the current rules in place (see Chapter 18 – Record Keeping and File Storage).
- You undertake continuing professional education in probate activities on an annual basis in compliance with the rules and if you identify any shortcomings in your knowledge you address these (see Chapter 14 – Continuing Professional Education).
- If you provide a Will writing service, you ensure that you keep up to date with all relevant current legislation and practice in relation thereto.
- You keep up to date with current legislation and procedures relating to probate activities.
- You provide your staff with any training necessary to ensure that they are up to date with current probate activities procedures and protocols as appropriate to the nature of their particular employment.
- You do not provide your clients with a full letter of engagement including your terms and conditions and all signposting information in connection with complaints at the outset.
- You do not provide an estimate of costs and disbursements and timescale for completion of the work, where appropriate.
- The level of your professional indemnity insurance cover is insufficient with regard to the amount and/or the value of the probate activities work you carry out.
- The continuing professional education in probate activities that you complete on an annual basis is not sufficient to keep you up to date with current relevant legislation and changes in practice.
- You do not provide staff with the necessary training to ensure that they are up to date with current probate activities procedures and record keeping requirements as appropriate to the nature of their particular role.