Meet the ACCA Probate and Estate Administration Trainer

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Hello, I’m Michele Susan Henderson and I’m an ACCA Probate and Estate Administration Skills trainer for BARBRI Altior.

Can you give me a little background about your career?

I started working with a high street firm of solicitors and I was asked to teach at the Law Academy Liverpool teaching Probate Practice. The team wanted someone who had previously worked in probate so that the person who was brought on board could make it real for the students. So that’s how I began teaching. In time, I also moved into the world of assessment. My client, a law lecturer, referred me to an opportunity that would see me become an examiner. As my workload started to grow, I knew that I had the experience and contacts to step out on my own.

I took the plunge to become self-employed in January 2019 as a consultant working in practice and education. Of course, 13 months later, the pandemic struck which nobody saw coming. I started working with BARBRI Altior a few months later as an ACCA Probate and Estate Administration Skills trainer and have completed three cohorts since then.

When I first started, I found the online delivery a bit nerve-wracking as there’s a lot of documents to share throughout the session and the range of delegates is quite wide. From newly qualified people expecting additional support, to business owners who already have a lot of knowledge, it’s all about ensuring that everyone has the same level of support throughout.

What made you want to become a trainer for this course?

I was approached by BARBRI Altior as I was already delivering a similar course. With BARBRI Altior, the course is six weeks from start to finish, with six training sessions to complete. Two weeks later, candidates can sit the exam and receive their results a short time later.

What appealed to me about BARBRI Altior was the online nature of the course as it allows good interaction with the delegates. Often, online classrooms mean people aren’t as shy and are more open to getting involved and joining conversations through the chat box function. Some people will ask questions early on – and they’re often good questions – which helps with the delivery of the modules and ensure that all candidates can grasp what we’re covering. Students are also able to see all interactions, so there’s transparency and delegates can interact with each other.

What is the most common question you receive from ACCA delegates?

Usually, delegates will ask how much they can charge for this additional service – they are accountants after all! But other common questions are around what they would do if they were dealing with an estate and the Will was contested or there was a challenge. It’s new territory for them so this is to be expected.

The estate administrations modules are typically the weaker areas for performance in the exam, and this was something I wanted to improve, as this was the area accountants will be working in. As a trainer, I don’t want to teach people how to drive then leave them to have a crash when on their own on the road – metaphorically speaking.

So, I’ve incorporated a ‘what would you do’ type of activity into my sessions based on real-life scenarios I’ve had in practice. This provides guidance to candidates around what they need to do to keep the clients happy and avoid a professional negligence claim. I also believe – and have seen first-hand – that delegates can learn from each other by experiencing different perspectives.

Some learners use the chat box function to network with others and form support groups – regardless of status, age, experience. Everyone who takes this course is new to this type of work. So, when coming together, they can talk through any problems, offer support and ongoing learning. 

How do you think the course supports career development?

For accountants, I think it adds another string to their bow. They will typically have an existing bank of clients and often, those clients they will see once annually for an audit. As a trusted confidant, often an accountant may be the first to hear of any issues a client might be facing too – such as matrimonial problems. In those circumstances, the accountant is then in the ideal position to talk about reviewing a Will.

However, unlike lawyers who know that a transaction will come to an end, accountants have a recurring bank of clients each year. By adding a new service into the mix, it encourages them to seek out new business opportunities and work alongside other professionals too. It keeps life exciting.

But I always say that there are certain modules of the course – intestacy rules for example – that delegates don’t just need to know this for the exam. They need to know this information for the pub because it’s where people will ask these questions!

What do you think is the biggest benefit of the course?

For some, it will be another income stream. One of my delegates on the 2020 cohort recently got in touch and shared that he had a growing bank of work as a direct result of the course that he never expected.  It can also be the gateway into a niche area. One of my delegates on a recent cohort was excited by tax. Now, he can do a more specialised qualification in this area.

What would you say to someone who’s thinking about doing this?

Set aside six to eight weeks in your life and be prepared to work hard. Make sure you haven’t booked any holidays during this period so you can focus on the course and give it your full attention.

I’d always recommend that candidates do the pre-course reading and as the course is ongoing, read what we’ve covered and then read ahead where you can.

This is something I reiterate throughout the course, but I want to emphasise that the training is not about passing the exam – it’s only the beginning. Everyone will need to do extra work to ensure they benefit, and to avoid any potential negligence claims in the future.

Find out more information about our ACCA Probate and Estate Administration Skills course.

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