How to find the best small business accountants

Successful entrepreneurs know how to use the talents of others, including accountants, to help them succeed.

Business accounting concepts and their applications to businesses are highly relevant to entrepreneurs and business leaders as their solid foundations can help to improve decisions and positively impact future growth. This is why as a business owner, you need a good accountant working with you at various stages throughout the business life cycle: start-up, growth, maturity and exit.

At Berley, we are specialist ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) chartered accountants in London and we have been using our financial expertise and solid experience to help small business owners. If you’re thinking of hiring an accountant for your small business – you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will share with you how to find the best small business accountants and how to get the most out of them.

Do you need an accountant?

You may have just launched your business and with limited resources, it is easy to look at accountancy as some sort of extra or a bonus service and you may even look to do the books yourself. While the approach sounds logical, there are good reasons why smart entrepreneurs do engage their accountants and incorporate accountancy into their company right from the start.

A good accountant is more than just a number cruncher and tax filer, they are fully qualified professionals ready to advise you on your company’s legal structure (which will determine how you pay tax and protect your assets), work with you on your business plan (one that can also help you to raise the necessary capital), and reign in financial control early on. The idea is simple – if you get the benefit of your accountant’s financial knowledge and advice right from the start, you are likely to save more time, money and effort when compared with hiring one later.

Five signs that you need to hire an accountant now

1. When you’re ready to launch a business

Accountants can provide valuable advice and help you with the administrative components associated with starting a business. This can include deciding on a business structure, deciding on VAT status, discussing operating costs, creating revenue forecasts and company secretarial services.

2. When you can’t cope

There are only 24 hours in a day, not a minute more or less so we must optimise the time we have. If numbers are stressing you out or spending long hours trying to figure out the changing tax regulations is causing you anxiety, it is time to hire an accountant or even consider outsourcing your entire accounting function.

3. When your business is growing

Business growth is a natural process for most businesses but it doesn’t happen accidentally. Hiring an accountant who can provide sound financial advice on the best growth strategy for your business is mandatory for success.

4. When you need help with your finances

One common question we hear from entrepreneurs is why their business can be technically insolvent when the sales are booming. Another one is why profitability remains the same even when sales are up. If you find yourself losing control of your finances, it’s time to talk to an accountant.

5. When your tax bills are high

No one likes to receive an unexpected tax bill or pay more tax than they should. At Berley, we will look at allowances and tax reliefs you can claim but haven’t and have an honest discussion about tax with you. It must be said that we don’t believe in creative accounting that will get you in trouble with HMRC.

What kind of accountant do you need?

In the UK, most businesses tend to hire chartered accountants who have undergone a minimum of three years of in-depth training, passed a series of examinations in financial management, auditing, business strategy and taxation. Above all, ICAEW chartered accountants are bound by strict Code of Ethics and subject to tough disciplinary procedures.

Not all chartered accountants will suit your business however. Some chartered accountants work mainly on big accounts or focus on a specific vertical market like healthcare or real estate. At Berley, our team specialises in small businesses, including budding enterprises and SMEs across London that have an appetite to grow the business.

You will also want to consider the location of your business in relation to the location of your accountant if you prefer to meet them face-to-face. Even if you prefer to communicate digitally, an accountant shouldn’t be someone whom you meet or talk to once a year. Regular conversations will foster a closer working relationship, which in turn will help you make good decisions that lead to profitability and growth.

Most important, in our opinion, is to find a chartered accountant who takes the time to understand your business and your unique circumstances. At Berley, we don’t believe in applying a one-size-fits-all solution to every client. We invest the time to understand your situation before recommending solutions that address your needs specifically.

What can an accountant do for you?

ICAEW chartered accountants work in every aspect of the economy and tend to cover the following areas within a company:

  1. Make sure financial data are accurate
  2. Evaluate data to recommend best practices and help your company run efficiently
  3. Offer advice on cost reduction and revenue improvement
  4. Identify growth opportunities
  5. Prepare and maintain financial reports
  6. Submit reports to the relevant authority in compliance with the relevant regulations
  7. Prepare tax returns and remind you on tax deadlines
  8. Helping your business to become tax efficient
  9. Prepare forecasting and risk analysis assessments
  10. Uncover fraud when one of your employees has manipulated the numbers for personal gain

In addition, most accountancy firms in the UK also help entrepreneurs with tasks such as bookkeeping, preparing invoices, chasing up on unpaid invoices, filing VAT returns, payroll administration, as well as company secretarial services. The focus here is to give as much help to entrepreneurs like you as possible, so you can concentrate on running your business and have the best opportunity to succeed.

Finding a good accountant

If you’re ready to find a good accountant to work with you, then you should look for someone who possesses:

ICAEW chartered status

ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) is a professional body that provides qualifications and protects the quality of the accountancy and finance profession. ICAEW chartered accountants are bound by a strict Code of Ethics. If you want an accountant with knowledge and integrity, look for an ICAEW chartered accountant.

Professional competence

Your accountant must maintain a high level of professional knowledge and skill, giving you competent services based on the latest developments in practice, legislation and techniques.

Business acumen

Your accountant should be more than someone who submits your tax returns on time. As they have access to your business accounts, they can share with you how to use the financial data to enhance your efficiency and profitability.


The best accountants are the ones who are dedicated to the clients, so look for one who is willing to take the time to get to know you and understand your business.

Professional behaviour

Your accountant should conduct themselves professionally, respect confidentiality and provide thoughtful advice in an honest manner. Avoid those who offer shortcuts or creative accounting that will get you in trouble with HMRC.


At Berley, we believe that your accountant should be a proactive colleague who shows initiatives to solve financial issues and improve profitability, given that the business landscape is constantly changing.

Other questions you should ask include:

  • How they can help you specifically
  • What the fees are
  • Fees related to ad-hoc accounting advice
  • Technology that they use (small business accountants nowadays should use cloud-based accounting software)

Berley is here to help

At Berley, our team of chartered accountants have become valued members of our clients’ organisation, actively driving cost efficiencies and identifying growth opportunities. Give us a call on 020 7636 9094 or fill out our Contact Form to kick start a meaningful conversation on how we can help your company today.

We are also the ideal one-stop outsourced accounting services for busy entrepreneurs. The areas we cover include:

Outsourced accounting

  • Bookkeeping
  • Compilation of management accounts
  • Accounts payable
  • Accounts receivable
  • Cash flow reporting
  • Sales reporting
  • Expenses and receipt management

Tax compliance

  • VAT returns
  • EC sales lists
  • Corporate tax returns and advice


  • PAYE registration
  • Payroll administration
  • Pension processing
  • Benefits processing

Company secretarial services

  • Annual compliance with Companies House
  • Maintenance of statutory books

We are small business accountants – call today on 020 7636 9094

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This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business/ accounting issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

Will and testament sealed with rope and wax stamp

Let your accountant handle probate

Will and testament sealed with rope and wax stamp

The decision to hire a solicitor or an accountant to handle probate may seem trivial when you’re grieving, but choosing one over the other is likely to save you money.

Since 2014, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales or ICAEW has been given the approval to regulate probate services, meaning qualified ICAEW chartered accountants can be licensed to provide probate services.

At Berley Chartered Accountants, we are licensed by ICAEW to carry out non-contentious probate in England and Wales, giving consumers an alternative to traditional probate providers like solicitors and banks.

Over the past few years, we have helped families across London with probate services, saving them time and money in the process. In this post, we aim to discuss uncontested or non-contentious probate and why hiring a chartered accountant to handle the probate process makes sense.

Uncontested probate is common

When a loved one passes away, the process to manage their financial affairs can be daunting. In the media, we often hear about the time of grieving becoming a time of family conflicts – with next of kin arguing over their inheritance, questioning the validity of a will, hiring lawyers and taking issues to court.

In reality, though, many families respect the last will and testament made by the deceased and do not intend to contest it. This is known as non-contentious probate. In England and Wales, licensed accountants like Berley are allowed to conduct non-contentious probate. In the event of a dispute, it will become contentious probate and require a specialist probate lawyer to continue with the process. Once the point of contention is settled, the probate application can revert to the accountant.

Top benefits of having your accountant handle probate

Accountants have the skills and knowledge to carry out probate

Probate is a highly numerical matter as it involves money, valuation and tax – areas that accountants are trained to handle. Whether the accountant you choose to handle probate is someone you already rely on for financial advice or a newly acquainted person recommended by a friend, accountants are well-versed in accountant and tax law, hence well-placed to carry out probate.

Lawyers need to use an accountant anyway

As mentioned in the point above, probate is mostly a financial matter, which requires input from an accountant and includes anything from valuation to inheritance tax. In the event that you hire a lawyer to manage probate, he/she is likely to require the service of an accountant and passes the cost on to you.

Tax issues

Apart from gathering information pertaining to assets and liabilities of the deceased, our accountants can also help you to prepare any personal tax returns that are required up to the date of death and answer any capital gain tax and inheritance tax enquiries you may have. At the end of the probate process, we also assist in preparing a set of final accounts detailing all the money received and paid out.

For the record, capital gains tax is applicable if the property or assets of the deceased are sold during probate and its value rose since the person died. Meanwhile, inheritance tax is due if the estate is worth more than £325,000.

Accountants can be more cost-effective

Most law firms charge a percentage of the estate. Even if you think the estate is small, this could end up being a large sum of money once you factor in things like property and savings. In many instances, the family members also don’t know the total value of the estate until the process of probate is done. Here at Berley Chartered Accountants, we charge on a time-basis when we handle probate.

Berley’s probate service

Berley is London’s probate accountants, licensed to carry out non-contentious probate in England and Wales. We work on a clear fee structure agreed in advance; in other words, you know exactly what you are paying.

For more advice on how Berley London Chartered Accountants can help you with probate services, call us today on 020 7636 9094 or fill in our Online Contact Form.

If you’d like more information pertaining to probate, you can check out:

This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business/ accounting issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. 

Probate: Managing a loved one’s financial affairs after their death

Coping with the loss of a loved one can be a psychologically distressing experience, so allow yourself to rely on probate specialists for support.

Following the death of a loved one, it is common to experience an overwhelming sadness and a torrent of emotions like shock, exhaustion, anger and even guilt. Everyone experiences grief differently and there isn’t a ‘standard’ or ‘right’ way to grieve, but during the process, it is important to allow yourself to rely on friends and family for support. Equally, when it comes to sorting out the estate of the deceased, it makes sense to get support from a licensed probate practitioner who knows what they are doing.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process you go through when your loved one has passed away and you are the executor of their estate with a duty to resolve all claims and distribute the deceased’s assets under a will.

The estate can be made up of money, property, shares and personal possessions like jewellery or cars.

There isn’t a set timeframe on when the probate process must be started following a death. However, as the executor (or administrator) of the estate, you are usually expected to complete the estate administration within one year from the date of death. The sooner you start and complete the process, the better it is as you may be liable for any loss caused by the process taking more than a year. 

Once the probate process is started, it may take three to five weeks for the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration to come through if the case is straight forward, otherwise, it may take longer.

Is there a will?

If the deceased has a valid will which names the executor(s) and stipulates what is to happen to the assets (which should collectively be worth more than £15,000), then the executor will need to apply for a Grant of Probate. This grant gives the executor of the will the legal power to administer the estate according to the will. 

If a will does not exist, then a close relative (following the rules of intestacy) will need to apply for Letters of Administration in order to administer the estate. The close relative then becomes known as the administrator.   

The duties of an executor or an administrator can include:

  • Notifying banks and other organisations of the death.
  • Notifying the beneficiaries and determining the entitlements of beneficiaries.
  • Getting the estate valued and reporting the valuation to HMRC.
  • Obtaining a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.
  • Paying liabilities, this may involve selling off assets like property to pay off taxes and debts.
  • Distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries named in the will.
  • Keeping a record of the estate accounts.

The process of applying for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administrations requires various legal documents to be prepared, signed and lodged, which is why it is best to rely on a probate specialist like our team at Berley.

Can accountants handle probate?

The answer is yes. At Berley Chartered Accountants, we are licensed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) to carry out non-contentious Probate in England and Wales.

Traditionally, only lawyers were allowed to handle probate but that changed in August 2014 when licensed accountants like ourselves also became able to offer probate services.

Allowing accountants to provide probate services makes the process much more efficient as lawyers are required to get in contact with a qualified accountant in order to obtain financial information on the deceased. Essentially, using an accountant streamlines this arduous process, meaning you can concentrate on honouring your loved one’s memory rather than painstakingly pursuing the settlement of their affairs.

Using us for probate is likely to be cheaper too as we work on a clear fee structure agreed in advance. Unlike solicitors who are likely to charge on a percentage of the assets, we charge on a time basis. 

Talk to us about our probate services today on 020 7636 9094 or fill in our Online Contact Form.

If you’d like more information pertaining to probate, you can check out:

This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business/ accounting issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. 

Five business growth-boosting apps for entrepreneurs

In today’s connected world, we use apps to help manage our music playlists, measure our heartbeat and translate menus in a foreign language when we go on holidays

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that many of us also rely on apps to help increase productivity and make operations more efficient.

With about 2 million apps out there, testing each one out is a challenging task (and in fact nearly impossible). This is why most of us tend to download apps that are recommended by friends and colleagues which are tried and tested by them so to speak. For the purposes of this article, our business growth specialists decided to check out quite a few business apps on the market today that can help boost your productivity and make the lives of entrepreneurs across London easier. Here are our top five recommendations.

  1. Trello – for project management 

The ability to manage a multitude of projects proficiently is essential in any growing business. A simple, easy-to-use project management tool, Trello allows you to create a board for each project, which is then further broken down into individual tasks through the creation of lists, cards, checklists and labels, allowing you to organise and prioritise your workload in a proficient but fun way.

How can it help you?

Trello makes project management more efficient by empowering teams to collaborate to achieve a set goal. It also integrates well with Google Drive, Slack and Dropbox, making it easier to manage projects that have data stored on different platforms.

How much does it cost?

The free version is generally enough for small business owners, but you can also shell out £12.50 per team member per month for Trello Business Class.

  1. RescueTime – for time tracking 

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” A wise quote by William Penn who founded the Province of Pennsylvania in 1680.

Many entrepreneurs can relate to this quote as they juggle multiple tasks and often find themselves distracted by a myriad of little things which may not earn them any revenues. Even the seemingly necessarily things like reading, answering and deleting emails are taking a significant chunk of our time but may not contribute to our bottom line.

How can it help you?

RescueTime gives you an accurate picture of how you spend your time and thereby you can be more productive.

How much does it cost?

The free version only tracks how much time you have spent on websites and apps, whereas the Premium version (US$9 a month or US$72 a year) has more features to help you manage your time efficiently.

  1. Slack – for working together 

Don’t let the name fool you – Slack improves employee activity and speed with an instant messaging app that values collaboration and connection. Everything from project discussions to social outings can live within Slack. The app offers personalised communication channels, searchable conversations and other necessary features for quick and easy contact.

How can it help you?

Slack makes collaboration between people and teams easier. One cool function is everyone can submit ideas and vote on them, then whichever idea gets the most votes can be shared to one of the integrated social media platforms instantly.

How much does it cost?

The free version is akin to using a limited trial version. If you want to upgrade it will cost either £5.25 a month for the Standard tier and £117 a year for their Plus tier.

  1. Xero – for accounting 

In 2018, Xero changed its tagline from ‘Beautiful accounting software’ to ‘Beautiful business’ to reflect its positive impact on small businesses across the world. Don’t roll your eyes and think it’s too cliché because Xero has indeed successfully helped thousands of business owners who have no prior accounting knowledge to grasp vital concepts like cash-flow and let them have the confidence to perform a series of accounting tasks. 

How can it help you?

The app allows you to manage your account while on the move. From invoicing your clients instantly to approving expenses, Xero makes time-consuming tasks easier and faster to accomplish.

How much does it cost?

From £10 to £27.50 a month but heavily discounted for the first few months.

  1. Otter – for note taking 

One of the best feelings in the world is coming out of a conversation feeling engaged and motivated, but one of the worst things in the world is when you finally return to your desk, you can’t recall every bit.

Forget about note taking, instead focus on the substance of the conversation and let the artificial intelligence-powered assistant Otter help you with note taking. Boasting many influential app awards, Otter transcribes voice conversations into rich notes with text, audio, images and key phrases that are easy to search and share. One of the most interesting features is Otter’s ability to recognise voices and terminology over time, becoming more personalised to you and your business.

How can it help you?

Otter turns your voice conversations, recordings or podcasts into smart notes that you can easily search and share. You can use it to capture your thoughts and ideas while you’re driving. In addition, if you take photos during a recording, they will be inserted inline with your transcripts.

How much does it cost?

Like most apps, Otter’s basic tier is free, but the paid services offer 6,000 transcription minutes a month and other features.

If you’d like more information concerning business growth, you can check out:

This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business/ accounting issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. 

Challenges of business growth and how to tackle them

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for 99% of the business population in the UK and they keep the UK economy humming along nicely, but when it comes to growing your SME, it’s fair to say that challenges abound

Everyday entrepreneurs are looking to set up a new business across the UK. Launching a business is an exciting, albeit daunting time. Very soon when the business is off the ground, when milestones are surpassed and goals are reached, you realise that more is yet to be done. Every iota of time and energy that you have put into opening the doors must now be redirected into continually growing your business.

Business growth is a natural progression and the desired outcome for many businesses. Once you’re in the growth stage, you will start to see some tangible results by means of increased output, greater sales, and more staff on your payroll to name but a few. But as a business growth specialist working with entrepreneurs across London for many years, we can safely conclude that not every business owner is prepared for growth. In fact, some of them are paralysed by the prospects of growth. The experience has prompted us to examine the dynamics between business and the growth path it takes. So we put our thoughts and insights into these articles Organic growth strategies for small businesses and External growth of a business. Today, we look to discuss the top five challenges a growing business can face and how to overcome them.

Avoid poor planning

Poor planning can see a thriving business crumble under pressure just as rapidly as it grew. Whether your business has just started or is ready to expand, it is essential to have a solid and well-considered business strategy that encompasses your growth plan.

Some useful points:

  • Establish what you want to achieve and create a list of short and long-term goals to grow your business.
  • Schedule a regular review of these goals and assess how your business is performing.
  • The market is continually changing, so it is important to revisit and update your plan regularly. As your business evolves, your strategy also needs to evolve.

For example, your original goal may be all about gaining new customers, but if this strategy forces you to cut price in order to compete, consider shifting to a value proposition and aiming to build stronger relationships and maximise satisfaction with existing customers instead. A well-defined value proposition can often present greater (and more reliable) opportunities for profit.

Don’t fall behind

One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is failing to keep up with industry trends and remain relevant; i.e. you aren’t investing in products or services that match or exceed market averages.

Suffice to say the market is constantly changing so it pays to stay alert by taking advantage of new information, keeping tabs on your competitors, talking to your customers and utilising your network. These are clever ways in which you can adopt and adapt to the changing trends.

Another point to keep in mind is disruptive technology. The lesson we all learn from Amazon or Uber is this new norm has the potential power to reshape how the entire industry operates. While not everyone is capable of thinking up the next Amazon or Uber, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try or you can’t replicate their business model in your sector.

Use cash-flow forecast to your advantage

A profitable business can go under if cash-flow is poor. Having a stable cash-flow is often touted as one of the most important factors used by investors to determine a business’s potential. The reason is simple – it tells you how well a business can support itself. During the growth phase, you’re likely to need more cash to employ more staff, get a bigger office or buy more raw materials to cope with demand, so don’t get caught off guard with not having enough money to keep the business going. At Berley, we help our clients to understand the importance of cash-flow and prepare a cash-flow forecast so they can enjoy a positive cash-flow throughout the financial year. If you want to know more about cash-flow, cash-flow gap, and how to fix a cash-flow gap, check out this article ‘Cash is king?’.

Taking on too much, too fast

One of the greatest challenges of business growth stems from business owners taking on too much and burning out.

It’s okay to ask for help, take on advice from other business owners, or even hire someone to help bounce ideas off and give yourself a break. Remember, you don’t have to do this alone and increasing your workforce and delegating tasks is a sign of a healthy business. Operating proactively rather than reactively when under pressure is wise.

Losing culture

It can be easy to get carried away in the excitement of business growth but don’t forget the unique set of beliefs and values that is dear to you and your company.

As more people enter the organisation, ensure your values and the company culture you have worked so hard to establish doesn’t get derailed. Let these values guide your decisions, hire people who will embrace these values – because if they believe in what you do, they will contribute and make progress, thereby positively impacting business growth.

Tackle business growth challenges with Berley

As London business growth specialists, Berley has a proven track record of helping small business owners to grow. We look to cultivate a symbiotic relationship with you – the more successful you are, the better it is for us as you are likely to require our expertise in business growth and our full suite of accounts services to fuel your expansion.

For more information on how we can help your business grow, call us on 020 7788 8261 today.

If you’d like more information concerning business growth, you can check out:

This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business/ accounting issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. 

Step aside solicitors, we’ll take over probate from here

Coming to grips with a significant loss in your life is never easy.

As you mourn and work toward acceptance and peace privately, you may also be inundated with a flood of responsibilities overtly such as making funeral arrangements and managing any outstanding financial responsibilities.

During this stressful period, managing your loved one’s estate may be the furthest thought from your mind, but probate is a necessary step and one that can be done effectively with the right people by your side, and our London-based probate specialists can help you to achieve that.

There are two types of grants concerning probate and we can help in both instances:

  • Grant of Probate is when the deceased left a will. This grant gives the executor of the will the legal power to ask banks to release the deceased person’s assets so they can carry out the wishes as stipulated in the will.
  • Grant of Letters of Administration can be applied by the administrator when the deceased didn’t leave a will. An administrator is a close relative (following the rules of intestacy) who is given the legal authority to settle the deceased person’s estate.

Why choose an accountant for probate?

Chartered accountants by trade and licensed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales to handle probate, we have the expertise and experience to help you to streamline the probate process and potentially save you a large sum of money in the process. The reason is simple – probate is a heavily numerical process as it requires an expert to access and analyse financial information, value the estate and answer any inheritance tax queries. As London’s local accountants, we are well placed to assist you with the aforementioned points.

In the event that you choose to use a probate solicitor instead of a licensed accountant, your solicitor is likely to enlist help from an accountant to analyse assets and liabilities, which can incur further costs to you. Delegating the probate process to a probate accountant like us enables you to cut out the middleman, thereby making the probate process cheaper and more efficient.

In addition, we charge on a time basis as opposed to a percentage of the assets like what a lawyer or a bank may charge you. If the deceased person’s estate runs into several hundred thousands of pounds, the amount you save can be substantial. Our fees are transparent and there will be no hidden charges.

Our probate service

Using Berley’s probate service will save you time and alleviate any stress you may have throughout the probate process. Depending on your circumstances, we can assist in the following areas:

  • Gathering all the financial information (assets and liabilities) of the deceased person.
  • Applying either a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration on behalf of the executor/ administrator.
  • Preparing any tax returns that are required up to the date of death.
  • Inheritance tax.
  • Ensuring any liabilities/ expenses are paid before the executor/ administrator distributes the assets.
  • Ensuring all assets are distributed in accordance to the will.
  • Keeping records.

Berley can help with probate matters

With a wealth of knowledge and proven track record of managing the financial affairs of many individuals and families across London, we understand the situation you are in and will support you throughout the probate process.

If you’d like more information pertaining to probate, you can check out:

Alternatively, give us a call 020 7636 9094.

How can Berley’s probate service help you?

Probate is the legal process of analysing and administering the estate of a deceased person whose estate is worth more than £15,000 and isn’t being passed to a surviving spouse or civil partner by definition.

A typical probate process usually involves:

  • Confirming the validity of a will (if there is one)
  • Obtaining valuations
  • Applying for a grant of probate and paying service fees to HMRC (note: the government has planned to introduce a new fee system but this has been delayed)
  • Paying inheritance tax
  • Getting the assets released
  • Making records
  • Then finally, distributing the assets to named beneficiaries.

Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy. On top of that, the probate process can be complicated, time-consuming, and stressful - all intensified during a time of mourning. At Berley, our licensed probate specialists in London understand that as an executor of the estate, you may already have a lot on your plate during this time of need and may not be in the best position to take charge of the whole probate process, which is why we’re here to help and lighten your load.

We are probate experts

The complex probate process used to be reserved for lawyers and solicitors, but as of August 2014, licensed accountants can also provide non-contentious probate services. Licensed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, Berley’s probate specialists in London can help you to gather all the information pertaining to assets and liabilities of your deceased loved one. Additionally, we can also help you to prepare any personal tax returns that are required up to the date of death and answer any inheritance tax enquiries you may have. At the end of the probate process, we also assist in preparing a set of final accounts detailing all the money received and paid out.

Our probate specialists have the right knowledge and the endeavour to ensure you are supported through this difficult time. We know that as an executor of the estate, overseeing the deceased's finances can add a personal strain to you, this is why we are here to alleviate your stress so you can focus on other matters such as funeral arrangements.

Berley’s probate service can save you time and money

The probate process requires intricate knowledge of finance and access to the relevant account information of the deceased, which is something that not all legal professionals have. By going directly to an accountant like us, you do not have to wait for a solicitor to enlist the help of an accountant to access and gather the necessary financial information, thereby making the process more efficient and tailored for you.

Solicitors also tend to charge a percentage of the assets, while at Berley we have a clear fee structure that charges on a time basis with no hidden fees. The fees are also agreed in advance. As the cost of probate usually comes out of the estate, paying less fees may mean the beneficiaries of the estate receive a bigger share.

We are here to help

You can trust us to help you approach the necessary probate matters in a professional, efficient and sensitive way. For more information, contact our specialist probate team on 020 7636 9094 or send us an email at

You may also want to check out the relevant post:


External growth

External growth of a business

External growth

When we talk about business success, more often than not we’re really talking about growth. Growth with respect to business often represents an increase in a business’s output, infrastructure or value.

Growth can also assume in two forms: organic and inorganic. In one of our previous posts, our business growth specialists discussed at length organic growth and the related strategies that aim to increase output and enhance sales through internal resources and processes. For the purposes of this article, we look at business growth in terms of its inorganic aspects, as well as the ways in which inorganic growth can be affected and implemented as a means of building a business and furthering its interests.

What is inorganic growth?

First and foremost, we shall define what inorganic growth is. Inorganic growth, aka external growth, is the process by which growth is achieved through the influence of resources that are classified as being ‘outside’ of the normal operations of a company. This can be achieved in many ways, including through acquiring or merging with another business, entering into partnerships with external parties, or through an influx of funds from an external contributor or sponsor.

Inorganic growth is often considered an attractive business strategy for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) due to its ability to easily implemented and integrated into a functional business. Furthermore, external growth is also a sound method for increasing profits quickly and can bring about considerable physical growth in circumstances where companies merge horizontally (we will discuss this further in the article). However, it’s also a risky strategy and warrants careful planning.

Advantages of external growth

Perhaps the most significant benefit that external growth is able to facilitate is a decrease in competition within the market. When companies enter into partnerships or build symbiotic relationships through mergers or acquisitions, their share of the market is guaranteed to become bigger (given that they have performed the necessary due diligence).

Further to this, external growth can have the following impact on a functioning business operation:

  • New resources, skills and knowledge: when companies affect external growth strategies, they are essentially boosting their resources, which in turn filters down to an increased pool of skills and knowledge.
  • An increased market share: by acquiring a competitor, or by entering into a partnership that sees resources shared, you can effectively rule them out as a competitor and assume their share of the market.
  • An increased customer base: simply, a bigger share of the market generally translates to a bigger customer base.
  • New segments of an existing market: if the company you acquired operates in a slightly niche position within the market, you are able to transition into this market and gain more of a share.
  • New distribution channels: depending on the structure and setup of the company you acquired, you may have new channels of distribution open to your business.

It’s important to note, however, that while there are a number of advantages to external growth, this is by no means a foolproof way to ensure success. Proper due diligence must be done, and proper planning is always required. Sudden growth must be met with preparation in order to handle the new demands of the business and ensure a smooth transition.

Mergers vs Acquisitions

An acquisition means one business is fully taken over and controlled by another entity. A smaller company is often acquired, and becomes part of the larger business (conglomerate) and ceases to exist. A merger, on the other hand, arises when two separate businesses combine to form a new, joint organisation. This is the result of a deal between businesses who may decide on growing through horizontal or vertical integration.

In horizontal mergers, two companies in the same market merge, decreasing competition as a result. In vertical mergers, the merging companies are in different stages in the supply chain process within the same industry. Both obviously have their advantages, and both are effective mechanisms for ensuring that the ‘new’ business or partnership is able to establish a stronger foothold in the current market.

While this is often conducive to success, it can have its ramifications. Companies entering into agreements need to be totally aligned with respect to their targets and interests - if they’re not, this can have considerable side effects down the track. This is why it’s always advisable to consult a specialist accountant before entering into a contract with a competitor.

How can Berley help small businesses?

Whether you’re considering an acquisition or a merger, formulating an appropriate business strategy and skillfully executing it is the key to the successful external growth of a business. Run your growth plan through our business growth specialists at Berley and we’ll provide extensive insights into how you can find the best strategy for your business. With over 30 years of experience in business growth, we can help you establish a solid foundation and strategy to grow your business this year and in the future.

So call us today on 020 7636 9094 to get started.

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This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business/ accounting issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

Organic business growth strategies for small business

Organic growth strategies for small businesses

Organic business growth strategies for small business

It’s no secret that growing a small business is difficult, particularly in this current economic climate.

Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) account for 99% of the current corporate ecosystem in the UK with a combined annual turnover of £2 trillion. Despite this, the business population saw a -0.5% decrease between 2018 and the previous year.

The fact is not all SMEs do well. It’s said that as many as 30% of SMEs fail during the first two years of operation. However, promising start-ups continue to succeed in a volatile market, which can only equate to one thing - having a better organic growth strategy that’s unique to your business.

Successful business strategy

A comprehensive and considered business strategy is one of the most vital aspects of business, and for small businesses where competition is rife and casualty numbers are high, effecting a tactical approach to growth is one of the keys to success. This is easier said than done, however. If the path to success were a simple one, everyone would be taking it. The fact remains; a successful small business requires a successful business model. Without the necessary elements for breeding growth, particularly organic growth, a start-up is bound to fall by the wayside. In a world where great ideas are the most valuable commodity, and innovation is the primary currency, it’s important to recognise and understand your business and realistically assess its chances of succeeding.

What is organic growth?

In general terms, growth is defined as the increase of an entity’s size, whereby its output, infrastructure or value has developed further than what it was initially. When we talk about organic growth, we really mean increased output, enhanced sales and larger reach achieved through internal resources and processes. The word ‘internal’ is key as the focus here is on growth happens around natural product development or market development, as opposed to using external financing to develop and grow a market, which can potentially risk the financial stability of the company.

To build a business organically should be the primary goal of anyone entering into a small- or medium-sized venture, as it constitutes the belief in and value of your respective company.

Organic growth, therefore, is the expansion of an entity that is achieved on its own. There is no reliance on exterior forces, mergers or acquisitions as a means of consolidating your business and becoming bigger by association. Organic small business growth is a reflection of good business practice, solid considered business strategy and an aggregation of hard work, and typically doesn’t happen overnight. Usually, it’s in these foundations that small businesses are given an indication of their success over a significant period of time, and can often be a good indicator as to whether they can sustain the growth and be successful in the future.

How do I grow my small business?

Considering there were 5.7 million SMEs in the United Kingdom in 2018 from a myriad of industries, disciplines and professions, how one should grow their small business and what constitutes success in such circumstances can be hard to gauge. In short, there isn’t a standard recipe that can be applied uniformly to business growth and guarantee success. More often than not, growth is reliant on the quality of your business model, your comprehension of finance matters, how you execute your business strategy and even your ‘idea’ that’s behind it.

While your specific circumstances dictate the relevance of these strategies, at Berley, our business growth experts have helped many SMEs across London to thrive and in this post, we aim to discuss three typical ways which you can implement to spur organic growth in your small business:

Innovate a new product or service

Pushing the boundaries and disrupting the status quo has led to the fruition of some of the most successful businesses. Identifying a niche in a market or developing a ground-breaking idea is undoubtedly one of the most effective mechanisms for breeding a successful start-up. However, not everyone is capable of thinking up the next Google or Uber. If you run an established business, then re-evaluating your business model should be considered. Ask yourself:

  • Can you develop new products to complement your current portfolio?
  • Can you conduct market research to identify gaps in the market and assess whether you can fill them?
  • Alternatively, can you shift your business’s focus toward high-value customers and analyse the impacts this has on your business’s performance?

As the market evolves, new opportunities emerge and if you’re willing to adopt and adapt, you’re already ahead of the game and are likely to seize the right moment before anyone else.

Invest in what’s working in your business

It’s an age-old adage, but you really do have to spend money to make money. Evaluating your company’s positioning and health, assessing your high-growth and most profitable areas and attempting to recognise where you are underperforming are all requirements for businesses looking to invest in themselves – thereby investing in their growth and success. If a product or service is performing well, you may want to limit expenditure from another area of your business, advertising for example, in order to target the high-performer and boost its efficiency. Sometimes developing a quality product is more valuable than developing a campaign.

Increase your business or product efficiency

If possible, implementing strategies to improve your business’s effectiveness and efficiency should be undertaken. Evaluating your commercial operations, from sales to marketing, you need to be able to take a step back and understand what is and isn’t working for your business, and do so from a critical standpoint. For example, technology can be a major driver of organic growth. With the majority of internet users now surfing via mobile devices, consider making your website mobile-friendly and marketing on social media can help to optimise your business.

Talk to Berley about organic growth today

As specialists in small business growth, Berley has a proven track record of delivering effective and efficient growth strategy advice that caters specifically to your small business. The support we offer is tailored to your growing company’s needs. We’re chartered accountants who don’t just generate numbers for our clients; we work with you to generate ideas.

For more information on how we can help your business grow, call us on 020 7636 9094 today.

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This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business/ accounting issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. 

Understanding the difference between a LPA and a Grant of Probate

When dealing with the ‘end-of-life’ affairs of a close relative or loved one, several stages of care may be involved. This process can span many years as a person’s health declines; and as their cognitive and mental capabilities begin to deteriorate, it may come to a point where they are unable to make their own financial or welfare decisions.

In such circumstances, it is commonplace for somebody else to take charge and protect their wishes and best interests. The appointment of this person may have been something already discussed and agreed with the affected person. Normally, the one who assumes control of the sick person’s affairs is a close family relative or a trusted friend. To take charge legally, there needs to be a ‘Lasting Power of Attorney’ (LPA) document in place. LPA legally gives delegated authority to the nominated person (or persons) and allows them to make decisions on behalf of the affected person.

LPA and probate, what's the difference?

When dealing with both concepts, there is some overlap in terms of the rights and responsibilities of the person entrusted with LPA and the person deemed as the executor of an estate under a grant of probate.

While LPA affords an individual the right to handle the affected person’s affairs while they’re alive, a grant of probate does the same after they’re deceased - essentially the distinction lies in when and how they’re able to exercise these rights and responsibilities. The line is drawn at the point that the affected person passes away. The person entrusted with the LPA is responsible for handling their affairs up until the point that they’re no longer alive, at which time the executor of their will becomes responsible for the handling of any finances and affairs according to the wishes outlined in their will.

While it is certainly possible for the person who is entrusted with Lasting Power of Attorney to also be the executor of the will, they require a different legal document to administer the deceased’s estate. This is called the Grant of Probate, and it requires a number of conditions to be met with respect to the lodgement of documentation to HMRC and other entities.

To put it more simply, the following definitions outline the significant points of difference with respect to a Lasting Power of Attorney and a Grant of Probate:

Lasting Power of Attorney: A legal document that empowers the holder to act on behalf of another person while they are still alive, in circumstances where they have become incapable, either through cognitive or physical impairment, to make independent decisions of their own. In the UK, there are two types of LPA – one is for on-going care and health while the other is for property and financial affairs. You can choose to assign your trusted family/friend with one type or both.

Grant of Probate: Probate is the process of administering the estate of a deceased individual. This process is handled by the executor stipulated in one’s will and whose responsibility is to ensure that the wishes expressed in the will are executed. This process may involve handling significant sums of cash or other assets. Naturally, other institutions may be involved – the banks, tax authorities and estate agents – and they need proof that the executor has the power to administer one’s assets properly. The Grant of Probate provides this.

What happens if somebody dies without a will?

When somebody dies without a will, this situation is known as ‘Dying Intestate’. In this instance, a family member has to apply for ‘a grant of letters of administration’. This is similar to a Grant of Probate and is issued by the courts. The person, who becomes known as the administrator, then has the powers to manage the disposal of the deceased estate. The same process applies with respect to the dissolution of an entrusted LPA and the administrator assumes control over the affairs of the deceased.

The distribution of an individual’s estate becomes incredibly difficult in circumstances where no will has been drawn up, particularly when disputes arise among beneficiaries. This process can get messy and often leads to strained or broken relationships, which is why it is always advisable to prepare a last will and testament when you have a chance to do so.

If you’d like to learn more about the processes for appointing a LPA or probate, or you’re interested in discussing the best methods for protecting your finances in the event of your passing, our specialist chartered accountants in London can assist.

Please contact us on 020 7636 9094 or alternatively, send us a message via our Contact Form.

You may also like to check out this post on Dealing with probate.