A STEP in the right direction

November 5, 2014

It can be daunting for anyone in need of estate or tax-planning advice to know where to go to get it, as these days there are a huge number of legal firms and other providers offering Private Client services. The difficulty comes in knowing where to get the best advice – if you decide to rely upon an existing adviser, often the ‘family’ solicitor or accountant, how can you be sure that they have the necessary experience and expertise to advise you fully? Even the preparation of what might appear to be relatively ‘simple’ may necessitate a detailed discussion of wider issues, for example inheritance tax planning or planning for nursing care costs.

The answer is that there is a professional body, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, or‘STEP’, the membership of which is made up of lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and those working in the field of trust administration. All STEP members are specialists in the area of trust and estate planning and in many cases hold additional qualifications. Membership is personal to the adviser concerned, rather than to their firm, and STEP members can be recognised by the designation ‘TEP’ or Trust and Estate Practitioner after their name. STEP was originally founded in England in 1991 but now has branches right across the world in some 80 jurisdictions, and a total membership in excess of 19,000.

The Northern Ireland branch of STEP was launched in 2007 and has grown from an initial membership of 9 to over 165. This includes a number of students currently undergoing the STEP Northern Ireland diploma – an exam-based qualification launched in 2012 for new members. The diploma covers four key areas – Administration of Estates, Administration of Trusts, Taxation and Accounts. It is hoped that the success of the Northern Ireland diploma will encourage even more potential members to join STEP so that the Northern Ireland branch will continue to grow.

From a client’s point of view, why should you seek out a STEP-qualified practitioner in preference to those without the TEP designation? In the first place, you can be confident that a STEP practitioner has the necessary experience and qualifications to advise you fully. STEP members not only need to prove their knowledge and experience in order to join the organisation, there are also rigorous requirements for continuing professional development training in excess of that normally required by other professional and regulatory bodies.

Secondly, STEP members are part of both a local and a global network, which means that if you need advice in more than one area a STEP practitioner has ready access to other, equally well-qualified advisers. Having access to such a network should help to make the whole planning process much easier.

If you would like to speak to a STEP practitioner in your area then you can search the Northern Ireland members directory online at www.step.org, or contact me in my capacity as Branch Chairman using the details shown below.

To find out how we can help you, please contact:
Michael Graham, m.graham@cfrlaw.co.uk
Cleaver Fulton Rankin Limited, 50 Bedford Street, Belfast, BT2 7FW.
T: 028 9024 3141 W: www.cfrlaw.co.uk