Trusting the System
Managing trusts relies heavily on being aware of time limits and tax deadlines so that where appropriate you can ensure that you are maximising opportunities to use the trust fund in the most tax efficient manner. Sometimes your role is to protect beneficiaries from themselves.
Managing key dates is central to effective trust administration. It is important to make the entries in a place that will be preserved regardless of staff movements.
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It is all very well deciding that the person who has the file should enter all the relevant dates in their on screen calendar. There is however a problem with this, when people leave, the IT department has the habit of deleting the calendar along with all the relevant dates. You then pass the file to another person and again all the dates are entered and that person goes off sick … so all the reminders are coming up on a computer that is not being looked at.
Off the peg packages
Larger firms use a trust management software package, but these can be expensive for smaller practices. It is important to remember that these will only be as effective as the quality of the instructions given to the person who programmed them. The instructions and training supplied with them is also key to how much benefit you can get out of the system. Some firms never truly make the most of the software as they don’t get everyone fully trained.
There is another way
Why not have a department calendar that will automatically remind all the fee earners in the department of the key dates? Dates such as the end of the accumulation period, the ten year anniversary date, the day a beneficiary reaches 18 and becomes entitled to income and of course the expiry of the trust period.
You could have a database for all your trusts with all the key dates entered which generates reminders for all of them. This can be set up to provide timely reminders such as a month before or a week before. Then you have time to do a proper job – proactively manage the trust; time to make suggestions, give advice, sit down with the trustees, implement any decisions and instigate relevant action.
Proactive or reactive?
It is up to you how you run your trusts, but sins of omission are just as negligent as mistakes made – but it is your liability insurance on the line. Whether you need to know who did the tax return and when this was submitted or if the trust has been exempted from making returns. You can even have those exemption letters scanned in so you can bring them up on screen in seconds rather than wait for old files to be retrieved from storage.
The efficient use of your IT system can save staff time and make sure you are meeting your deadlines easily.
Store it – don’t lose it!
If you are not careful when someone joins the team or firms merge or someone retires, someone has to go through trusts file after file to obtain the same information as their predecessors did. This time should not be charged to the client. The use of your IT system can ensure that this is not necessary just scan in the relevant trust document and deeds so these can be available in seconds. This saves new staff time and makes sure that things are not overlooked when they are getting up to speed with a new caseload.
Whatever you decide to do and whatever your budget your computer system is there to help you and properly programmed it will do so.
Miss Ruth Moore currently works at Whittaker Moore Associate Ltd – Making IT work for you.
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